By Juan Andres Misle
The schizophrenic nature of the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections is setting off alarms across the international community.
Not long after the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom threatened to push the stability of financial markets and emerging economies off a cliff, commentators and pundits of all backgrounds have begun to ponder what might the U.S. do, should it choose a similar path of marginalizing immigrants, muslims, and traditional U.S. allies.
The unpredictable and erratic behavior of the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, has become a growing concern among international elites. Most notably, French president Francois Hollande made no secret how his gag reflex would react in such an outcome.
Vastly underreported but far more reflective of hemispheric relations quickly caught my attention last week in an interview by TeleSur’s Abby Martin to Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa. Asked by Martin of what the future could hold for Latin America in the event of a Trump or Clinton presidency, Mr. Correa said the following:
“If you ask me what’s better for Latin America, the answer I give may shock you: Trump. Because he is so crude that this will build more support for progressive governments. Because something that has promoted what we call the conservative restoration, the return of the most backward forces and neoliberalism, is the fact that we have a U.S. government that has changed little in its policies and has done practically the same as it always has, but has a charming president in Obama.”
“The minute there is a Trump, as happened with Bush before him, remember almost all of our progressive governments came to power when George W. Bush was president. Because the rejection of his policies and ideas was so strong, that it actually strengthened our progressive governments. I believe something similar would occur if Donald Trump wins the U.S. presidency, but for the sake of the USA and the world in general, I hope Hillary Clinton wins.”
The answer is indeed a shocking one to anyone who’s been loosely following the election. Yet, in essence, Mr. Correa’s reflection should not need be a surprising one to anyone who has been following closely the emergence of the ‘pink tide’ across Latin America in the last decade and a half, even as that tide now begins to show signs of exhaustion.
In fact, a similar analysis to Correa’s was echoed months ago by neoliberal pundit Andres Oppenheimer in an article published by the Miami Herald. Standing at opposing ideological lines, Correa and Oppenheimer have seemingly arrived to the same conclusion: what the Latin American left needs to fend off what they regard as “the reemergence of an emboldened right wing” is a mere caricature of a reactionary and arrogant figure at the helm of an empire in decline.
While there is much evidence to suggest that an international – albeit, short-lived – commodity boom was at the core of an emerging left in the continent, Correa’s response shows he is no stranger to realpolitik and that ultimately, his reached conclusion may help explain an alternative narrative to previously assumed hemispheric political dynamics.
Last year, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro suggested he had evidence that opposition leader Henrique Capriles and other opposition politicians had gone on a trip to New York to ask Mr. Trump and other financiers for funding. He later accused Senator Marco Rubio and Florida congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of engineering a plan with a trained hitman to assassinate him.
While historical U.S. interference in the region is not something to be overlooked in attempts at understanding Latin America’s political evolution, the careless and flamboyant exploitation of this narrative may do a great disservice to the credibility of those struggling to dispel Machiavellian notions of governance.
At a time when President Obama has cemented the U.S. rapprochement with Cuba as his most important foreign policy legacy in the region, Correa reminds us that while his heart is with Clinton, his brain suggests Trump would embolden his political project at large.