From August 13–18, Vice President Mike Pence is traveling to Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Panama. This trip serves as a follow-up to a multinational conference co-hosted by the U.S. and Mexico on “Prosperity and Security in Central America” in mid-June. The Vice President should use this trip to highlight important partnerships with the countries and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to their respective sub-regions. Specifically, the Vice President should reaffirm U.S. commitment to security and prosperity in Central and South America, U.S. support for a responsible implementation of the Colombian peace process, and U.S. commitment to addressing the crisis in Venezuela.
Vice President Pence’s trip to Latin America provides a great opportunity to follow up on the initiatives developed during the Central America conference and deepen relationships with four important countries. While traveling to Central and South America, the Vice President should:
Expand the regional coalition for unified action against Venezuela. Venezuela should be a high priority for the regional visit. The crisis in Venezuela is a problem for all of Latin America. Leaders and stakeholders must join efforts at helping restore Venezuela’s democracy and addressing the humanitarian crisis.
Urge the Colombian government to responsibly implement the FARC peace agreement and reduce the cocaine cultivation boom. As the U.S.–Colombian relationship shifts from “Plan Colombia” to “Peace Colombia,” the U.S. must ensure the successes of the former are not lost. For the United States, both the terms of the peace agreement and the way it is implemented are extremely important.
Commit to supporting Colombia’s efforts to locate and seize illicit FARC assets. While the Colombian government has seized $100 million from FARC this year, the location of FARC money and assets is still largely unknown.
Alba Tobella, “FARC’s Elusive Finances Undercut Support for Colombia Peace,” USA Today, June 13, 2017, https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2017-06-13/farcs-elusive-finances-udercuts-support-for-colombia-peace(accessed August 8, 2017).
Illicit money cannot remain in FARC control if the group intends on demobilizing and reintegrating into society.
Make the case that addressing the crisis in Venezuela requires addressing Cuba’s leadership role in the Venezuelan government. The Organization of American States Secretary General has described Cuba’s presence in Venezuela as that of an “occupational army.”
Orlando Avendaño, “Cuba Has ‘Occupying Army’ in Venezuela, OAS Secretary General Claims,” PanAm Post, July 20, 2017, https://panampost.com/orlando-avendano/2017/07/20/cuba-has-occupying-army-in-venezuela/ (accessed August 8, 2017).
Cuba must be held accountable for its leadership role in Venezuela’s demise.
Deepen trade relations with Argentina. President Macri’s leadership presents encouraging opportunities for the U.S. The Trump Administration should seek to reduce bilateral trade barriers. The U.S. should support Argentina’s economic growth efforts.
Double down on efforts to support security and prosperity in Central America. The Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are some the most impoverished and dangerous countries in all Central America. This is largely the reason why they are also the primary source for unlawful migrants to the U.S. Addressing the security and economic crisis in Central America is a proven U.S. national security interest.