From 1823, when President James Monroe declared before Congress that the American continents were out of the colonization scope of the European powers, and until Barack Obama, when he announced the end of the U.S. intervention in Latin American affairs at the 2015 Summit of the Americas, the continent’s relationship with the successive U.S. presidents have gone through different phases that have proven key for the political, economic and social development of Latin America. 

The uncertainty brought about by the victory of Donald Trump as president of the United States, impacted the whole world, but Latin America was no doubt the region where the political aftershock caused by Trump's rise to power was most feared. The lack of specifics from the Trump administration regarding its foreign policy, has many parts of the world holding their breath waiting for what steps will be taken next. The other major powers are awaiting the strategic decisions of the new incumbent at the White House, so as to take advantage from new opportunities or power vacuums where the United States might have previously led the way. 

In Europe, the nationalist aspirations of the United Kingdom weaken the international strength of the Union and sees London become a player with its own negotiating powers, free from the impositions of the member States. On the other hand, Spain and Portugal will play an increasingly important role as strategic allies for Latin America and as mediators, thanks to their geographic, historic and cultural links.

It is worth noting that 2017 and following year will be key for Latin America, with many governments facing general elections. Chile, Honduras, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Colombia, México, Brazil and Venezuela will elect their Heads of State. The paralysis affecting structural reforms in the region may be caused, as in the case of Brazil or Chile, by the upcoming elections while in other cases, there is simply no intention of implementing reforms, because there is no political belief in them, as in the case of Venezuela. There are also situations where weakened governments, such as Guatemala’s, do not have the option of boosting productivity and competitiveness. As one of our contributors states in this issue, Latin American countries may not see Trump as one of their main priorities, as they are focused on their own domestic affairs.

Will the U.S. recover its founding spirit of leadership on the world stage? Will the arrival of a populist in the U.S. Government influence elections in Europe and other parts of the world? How will the Trump administration change the balance of power in Latin America? Will social instability in Latin American countries end due to the threat of not extending NAFTA? Will Latin America find alternatives in order to boost its growth, transform its production structure, etc., without abandoning social challenges? Who will pay the price of the new “Make America Great Again” policy? Will this new situation cause the awakening of a passive society? These are some of the interesting questions we are exploring in this number of UNO.

*Summary of the article published in UNO magazine 

By: Erich de la Fuente, Partner and CEO for the United States at LLORENTE & CUENCA