The secretary of state today starts his tour of Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Colombia
America is not a continent but an ensemble of values. And the threatening shadow of China and Russia extends over them; two countries that have an economic influence on the region, but who are foreign to their democratic aspirations. This is the doctrine Rex Tillerson, [U.S.] secretary of state, will rely on during his first tour of Latin America, which starts today. The trip will take him to Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Colombia and will focus on a country he will not visit: Venezuela, which is the main threat to the continent's stability. "I am sure that he’s got some friends over in Cuba that could give him a nice hacienda on the beach and he could have a nice life over there," Tillerson joked.
The secretary of state shone in Austin. During a speech at the University of Texas, his alma mater, Donald Trump's administration showed its best face. Tillerson was relaxed. He smiled and bluntly answered students' questions. Before that, he read a 40-minute speech that focused on three points: economic growth, security and democratic governance. The triad that summarizes the goals of his tour and the three pillars that China and Russia are threatening. First, by exporting an exploitation model based, according to Tillerson, on low salaries and the disregarding of human rights; second, by selling weapons to non-democratic regimes. "Latin America does not need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people. … The United States stands in vivid contrast. We do not seek short-term deals with lopsided returns. We seek partners with shared values and visions to create a safe, secure, and prosperous hemisphere."
Tillerson believes that America is a source of prosperity for the United States. There is a trade surplus and a dense network of economic exchanges. In this context, NAFTA’s renegotiation means the actualization of an agreement that came into force in 1994. "An agreement put into place 30 years ago, before the advent of the digital age and the digital economy, before China’s rise as the world’s second-largest economy – that NAFTA would need to be modernized." It needs to be adapted to the "global world of competition and trade,” the secretary of state said. As the former executive of the Exxon oil company, Tillerson highlighted the continent's energy prospects, as well as the advantages of the American exploitation model. "There are great growth opportunities in this sector. In the future, America will have more capability than the rest of the world combined. Some $70 billion is being invested in power generation plants, so we have to start thinking about the model we want to develop," Lydia Barraza, a State Department spokesperson, explains.
For the State Department, the economy and security go hand in hand. The more prosperity, the fewer crimes. With this approach, Tillerson wanted to underline the importance of combating transnational criminal organizations, responsible for traffic in weapons, drugs and human beings. “We don’t like to admit it, but we’re the market. The United States accounts for the vast, vast, vast majority of illicit drug consumption in the world,” the secretary of state admitted. At this point, he announced his desire to strengthen ties with Mexico by attacking cartels' income sources, as well as their production and distribution bases. He gave a little warning to Colombia too: "Colombia has been one of our strongest partners in the region. [...] We continue to support this sustainable peace, but challenges do remain. Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine – the source of 92 percent of the cocaine seized in the United States,” he stated.
Venezuela and Cuba were the central axis of Tillerson's discourse. He made clear that he dismissed all military intervention against Nicolás Maduro, but also that the regime must get back to the constitution and submit to democratic elections. This is the goal of Washington's bans against Caracas; bans that, according to the secretary of state, were meant to avoid the Venezuelan people's suffering. "It would be a good idea that Maduro's government gave the power back to the citizens and stopped destroying the country's economy," Lydia Barraza pointed out.
Concerning Havana, Tillerson said that the relationship's future is in the Castrist regime's hands. He recalled that the United States is already working on a model that "supports the Cuban people by steering economic activity away from the military, intelligence, and security service which disregard their freedom.” “Cuba has an opportunity in their own transfer of power from decades of the Castro regime to take a new direction," he said, referring to Raúl Castro's approaching retirement.