The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is blasting the Trump administration’s approach toward Latin America and calling on the White House to wise up and adopt a new policy that brings U.S. allies together at this weekend’s Summit of the Americas.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., is leading more than a dozen Democrats who are calling on President Donald Trump to abandon its “divisive ‘America First’ policy” and instead embrace an “Americas together” policy when meeting with more than 30 Latin American and Caribbean leaders at the United Nations-like summit in Lima, Peru this weekend.
“The impact of this administration's approach is clear: American leadership is eroding in the Western Hemisphere,” Menendez writes in the letter to Vice President Mike Pence, who is attending the summit Trump decided earlier this week to skip. "In 2017, U.S. approval ratings plummeted in every country in the region, placing us behind China, and making it more difficult for us to advance our objectives by raising the political cost of cooperating with the United States. While U.S. leadership recedes, China and Russia are filling the void.
Menendez was joined on the letter by more than a dozen Senate Democrats, including Dick Durbin of Illinois, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey, who reached out to Pence Friday, calling on him to help restore U.S. leadership through more “proactive and respectful engagement” or risk further ceding our regional leadership to our adversaries.
The summit comes a week after Trump spent days tweeting his frustration over U.S. immigration and border control laws and repeating controversial comments from his campaign when he said Mexico was sending “rapists” to the United States. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto responded that Trump’s repeated attacks on Mexico were “offensive and unfounded” and said he will not tolerate threats to Mexico’s dignity or sovereignty.
Trump’s decision to cancel his first trip to Latin America — which he said was to focus on the tense situation in Syria — was a setback for a region who has long felt snubbed by its larger and more powerful neighbor to the north.
The Democrats said Trump has divided the region with his “derogatory comments” on Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and reports that he called Haiti a “shithole” country. They said Trump’s decisions to end the Obama-era DACA program, which protected many young immigrants from deportation, and Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, Salvadorans and Nicaraguan nationals could also hurt U.S. national security interests by sending thousands back to countries overwhelmed by violence.
They also argue Trump’s decision to not attend the summit “is a missed opportunity to repair relations” with regional leaders.