You know what would help presidential hopefuls stand out from the rest? Talking about Latin America—not just proposals on fixing America’s immigration system, but foreign policy toward the region. Democrats once again had an opportunity to speak on the subject during the second Democratic debate in Detroit, Michigan this week, but failed to impress.
We’ve heard it all before, Democratic candidates blasting Trump on the handling of immigrants at the border, how they would immediately end family separation once in office, and how some candidates—including Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Department of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro—would decriminalize illegal border crossings. Only a few candidates, including former Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Senator Michael Bennet, have discussed working together with Latin American countries to fix the issues at the border, and in the case of O’Rourke, invest in the Northern Triangle to address the root causes of migration. Even former Vice President Joe Biden, who has extensively worked with the region and briefly mentioned it in the last debate, barely touched on Latin America during his campaign stop in New York City on July 11 at New York’s CUNY Graduate Center, where he gave a speech dedicated entirely to laying out his foreign policy plan.
While it is understandable when there are greater threats and more pressing issues facing the U.S.—like Russia, China, and the Middle East—the U.S. should also pay attention to the urgent challenges Latin America is facing. Nicaragua is still in crisis; Guatemala’s President has more than once now challenged the country’s constitutional court; Mexico is facing its highest levels of violence even after the capture of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán; and rebel groups in Colombia are beginning to reappear even after the peace agreement. Yet the only topic candidates have addressed besides immigration that relates to Latin America is Venezuela. After years of President Donald Trump’s focus on three countries in the region to the exclusion of other issues—including the lack of U.S. diplomats—a proper policy plan toward Latin America should be easy picking for these presidential hopefuls. You can keep track of what the presidential candidates are saying about the region in our ongoing series here.