Interviews with Juan Cruz, former adviser to the president for the region, and Arturo Valenzuela, former collaborator of the Democratic candidate.
Juan Cruz was director of the Western Hemisphere of the National Security Council, a direct advisor to President Donald Trump for Latin America, between 2017 and 2019. Today a member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank from Washington, Cruz spoke with Clarion on the prospects for Latin America and Argentina if the Republican manages to renew his mandate in the White House for another four years.
He said policy on Venezuela could include an intervention or more pressure (no invasion) military and affirmed: “I like to think that Maduro has his days numbered” in power. Regarding the relationship with our country, he pointed out that “in the United States we are convinced that we must help Argentina to recover,” although when asked about the link between the US administration and Alberto Fernández’s, he admitted that “both governments suspect one of the other”.
-Do you think the Trump administration paid enough attention to Latin America?
-I believe that we will never be happy with the attention given to the region. I would put it another way: the first president Trump met with when he became president was Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru and at one point he had spoken with more than 12 leaders in the region. He also appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead relations, as did Barack Obama in appointing Joe Biden. We would have liked more attention, for him to travel more to the region, but I would say that at least the issues he touches on are serious, they are genuine and he is committed.
-What are those issues?
-For example, the fight against drug trafficking. There are issues that presidents should pay special attention to because the people demand them, the conditions and the advisers demand it, but this is an issue that the president began to deal with from his genuine point of view. He thinks that it is an evil and that it is better for the United States and the region to fight drug trafficking. He has done it in a different way than other leaders. He paid excessive attention to one or two producing countries, but it does not mean that it is not a subject of great thrust for him and it has repercussions on other subjects such as the wall that bothers so much. One can be in favor or one can be against, but it is something that he believes is of benefit to the United States and in a certain way gives greater attention to the problems that this migratory movement generates not only in Central America but also in Mexico.
-Precisely the issue of the wall has received great criticism, especially for the issue of deportations and also for the separation of families. What do you think?
-I fully understand the criticisms. I personally believe that mistakes have been made and that often happens when one is starting a new policy and there is a lot of uncertainty.
-For the first time there is an American and a Trump man in the IDB presidency, Mauricio Claver Carone. Could this fact influence the policy of the United States towards Latin America?
-I think it is a victory for the Trump administration in the field of multilaterals, where it has achieved for the first time the appointment of an American in a position like that. If this is part of the policy of this administration to confront Chinese influence in the region, I think it is interesting. It is important that anyone who is president of the bank is successful, because if the bank is successful, we are all successful.
-How do you imagine a possible second term for Trump for the region? Will there be changes, will it deepen some axes or will it continue in a similar way?
-I worked with the president and I know that he is a person who does not give up nor is he influenced too much when he has made a decision. I think there will be even more emphasis on certain issues, for example the wall, migration and drugs. In other areas I think it would be very interesting to see how politics develops. There may or may not be changes as in the case of Venezuela. This is a good example because many people have said that “the president has lost interest in the Venezuela issue.” What they have not understood is that the president never loses interest. His way of handling things is like a back and forth. Sometimes he stops touching on a subject, but then he tweaks it with greater emphasis and determination and sometimes with more interesting perspectives. People misunderstand his interest in having a conversation with Nicolás Maduro and that is not that he is softening his position, but rather that he emphasizes his own skills as a very successful negotiator in the past and knows that sometimes his talent in that field can establish new ones. understandings. It is the same concept in the past when he has offered to negotiate with the Taliban, with the regime in Iran or with Kim Jong Un in North Korea.
-Trump wanted to solve the crisis in Venezuela and for Maduro to leave power, but none of that happened. Where do you think you failed?
-I would say the opposite, it is an achievement even though the regime is still there, entrenched. We have a situation that has changed a lot around the world. We have put a light on all that uproar that is Venezuela, with corruption, crimes and democracy destroyed. I do not see it as a failure because when the Trump administration arrived, we had 18 years of a failed policy towards that country, by the United States and the region. So we don’t expect it to be fixed in four years. Take a path where the whole region was more or less in the same position and we slowly moved that in an entirely different direction. For me that has been a success and I like to think that Maduro’s days are numbered.
-Do you see a Trump meeting with Maduro feasible?
-Maduro and the regime have been very adept at taking talks and negotiations simply as an instrument to perpetuate themselves in power and abuse it. There is not much confidence that sitting down with the regime will get us anywhere. The regime will have to take some steps to build confidence in the region that this time it will be serious. I am in favor of negotiations, here we will have to negotiate something with someone at some point. Some countries in the region will have to determine if they are going to be guarantors or if they are going to represent one side or the other. For the United States to sit down and talk to a person, they would have to be more serious. In that sense, I think there is the possibility of a second Trump administration and even a first one from Biden to engage in a conversation with the regime in a more constructive way. Otherwise I think things can get worse.