Friday, January 04, 2019

Duque Woos Trump

There is a stir in Colombia stemming from Iván Duque's comment to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the founding the fathers of the United States were "crucial" to Colombian independence (he said the words that he tweeted after the hug). Supporters and critics are going at one another on social media (naturally). The discussion goes into the meaning of neutrality but also the Monroe Doctrine.

Now, it's worth mentioning that at the time many Latin American leaders did view the Monroe Doctrine in a positive light, precisely because they thought the U.S. would protect them from European powers. That soured over time as it became clear first that the U.S. invoked it quite selectively and then expanded it in a decidedly imperial manner.

But let's set that aside to look instead at the optics of Duque's statement right now. These days the Monroe Doctrine is widely--almost universally--viewed in Latin America as negative. It became the foundation for U.S. intervention for decades. Invoking it will get you positive reviews only from the United States government and its closest allies (like Alvaro Uribe, who has been tweeting approvingly). The message was intended for Donald Trump.

Duque wants Trump's approval, which has been slow in coming. Trump cancelled two visits to Colombia in 2018 and periodically emits critical tweets or statements about Colombia's failure to address the flow of narcotics. This is from September 2018:

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  What I want — what I want and what we’ve discussed, and one of the reasons I was so happy to see the President’s victory — that was a great victory and there was a very worldwide, world-renowned victory because of his strong stance on drugs. 
Now, if he comes through, we think he’s the greatest.  If he doesn’t come through, he’s just another President of Colombia.
Duque's simple message (and all messages to Trump must be simple) is that we love you, we love your history, and we will even give you a lot of the credit for our own independence. Just please be my friend.


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