The US presidential elections are already swinging the pendulum for Latin America in significant ways. The fear that the US will now revert to protectionism lead to a major sell off across different asset classes. The Mexican Peso tumbled to 20-years lows and has hardly recovered as of yet, pulling down the entire region. After an initial quick fall the Dollar bounced hard and is currently trading at multi-month highs. This has exacerbated the devaluation of Latin American currencies, which are traded against the Dollar.
Apart from the financial fallout, geopolitical consequences of Trump’s future policies have appeared as well. Now that Trump has confirmed he will not support the Trans-Pacific Partnership, potential members like Chili, Peru, Mexico and Colombia will likely beef up their bilateral economic relations in order to compensate for TPP. Peru already stated to foresee bilateral negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. Argentina, very open to free trade, will receive $4.1 billion in investments from Canada. This is about half the amount expected from US companies through 2019. A more protectionist approach by Trump could bring that amount down and leave the door open for Canadian companies to fill the gap. Withdrawal from NAFTA could exacerbate this and will constitute extra incentive for Latin American countries to strengthen bilateral relations with other geopolitical powers. Peru, which has strong historic ties with China, already trades more with China than with the US, a development that could potentially spill over to increased security and military cooperation. President Kuczynski’s pull to China is very clear: “We hope to tap into new markets in China, especially for agriculture. We are also interested in cooperation on science and technology. Furthermore, cultural exchanges and cooperation in archaeology and climate change are also very important for us.” It remains the question whether the US will look on from the sidelines if Russia and China increase their influence in Latin America.
Interregional relations are likely to strengthen as well, given Trump’s veiled threats to Central American countries on the topic of immigration. Whether the US will build a wall or will significantly increase deportations of immigrants, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have said to form a bloc with Mexico to deal with the US under Trump leadership. However, with regards to Mexico, it is likely that organized-crime competition will increase, as a result of traffic restrictions and stricter border controls. In this scenario, conflict over control over the remaining open crossings would lead to increased violence. Violence in border cities like Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana is already on the rise. The second security consequence for Mexico stems from the influx of deportees, who would have few employment opportunities in Mexico. They could provide a ready pool of labour for criminal organizations. Central American cooperation is said to increase collaboration on jobs, investments and migration.
It remains to be seen as to which direction the pendulum will eventually swing, however, for the moment significant financial, economic and security consequences are already visible in Latin America.
So much for Duterte’s political correctness and what it means for the US-Philippines relationship
So much for political correctness when the Philippine’s president Rodrigo Duterte branded the former U.S. President Barrack Obama with profanity in September 2016. This has canceled his planned meeting with Obama in Laos where he expected to be challenged on human rights issues. What Duterte has finally gained though was not having to confront that topic.
Duterte’s congratulatory note to President Elect Donald Trump seems to indicate an attempt to re-improve the U.S.-Philippines relationship since his spree of anti-American rhetoric in the past few months. Following the U.S. election result, Duterte also said, “The United States presidential election is a testament to the enduring traditions of its democratic system and the American way of life. The two-party system gives American voters freedom of choice based on party platforms, not just on personalities.” Caution, however, prevails on the continuity of this new attitude toward the U.S. administration, particularly when his past statements toward the U.S. have been very confusing.
Duterte has very recently cancelled an order of some 26,000 police assault rifles from the U.S. after rumors that Washington stopped the sale. According to Reuters, a U.S. senator had planned to block the arms purchase over concerns about human rights violations. This may not be as surprising because Duterte did promise during his election campaign that he would kill the alleged drug dealers and drug users in the Philippines and there has been more than 3000 killings already since his presidency in June 2016.
Duterte’s earlier comment about separation from the U.S. has also been troubling Washington because the U.S. has been the Philippine’s strongest ally. Since Duterte’s visit to Beijing in October 2016 to sign a deal worth $13.5 billion and possibly to diminish the resentment over the Philippine’s territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, it becomes somewhat apparent that the Philippine’s president is looking to China to replace the U.S. as a major ally for the Philippines. Daniel Russel, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, however, suggested, “it would be a mistake to think that improved relationship between Manila and Beijing should come at the expense of the United States”.
It is critical to understand the relationship between the Philippines and the U.S. that has institutionalized over the years before an attempt to speculate on how this relationship could transform with Duterte’s ongoing anti-U.S. rampage.
- The U.S. is the largest investor in the Philippines with a direct investment over $4.7 billion and the country’s third largest trading partner;
- The U.S. has provided to date over $143 million in assistance to the Philippines in relief and recovery funds to battle natural disasters;
- The U.S. has granted the Philippines preferential duty free access to the U.S. market which also makes the Philippines among the largest beneficiaries of the Generalized System of Preference (GSP) program;
- The U.S. has designated the Philippines as a major Non-NATO ally;
- The 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty offers a security partnership between the two countries;
- An estimated 4 million U.S. citizens of Philippine ancestry live in the U.S.;
- Over 220,000 U.S. citizens live in the Philippines;
- An estimated 650,000 U.S. citizens visit the Philippines each year;
Clearly, Duterte’s diplomatic and political demeanor worries and confuses U.S. officials. A U.S.-Philippines joint military exercise due in October 2016 have been postponed to late November 2016 after Duterte suggested earlier that the joint exercise with the U.S. would be the last of such partnership.
On the human rights matters, Washington could decide to cut military aid to the Philippines or make it subject to careful judicial procedures. Consequences could also manifest into discontinuation of GSP privilege. Manila, however, has suggested that the Philippines could sustain without U.S. assistance, particularly when the Philippine’s latest approach toward China indicates that the country may seek assistance elsewhere.
It’s too early to say that Trump’s victory will mean a continuity of the current U.S. foreign policy toward the Philippines, however, potential U.S. repercussions will not be a surprise should Duterte’s actions toward the U.S.-Philippines partnership escalate for the worse.
In October, Ecuador acknowledged that it partly restricted Internet access for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is taking refuge at its London embassy. Ecuador has disclosed that Mr Assange had in recent weeks released material that could have an impact on the presidential election in the United States, which will take place on 8 November.
In a statement, the Ecuadorean foreign ministry disclosed that WikiLeaks’ decision to publish documents could have an impact on the US presidential election adding that the release was entirely the responsibility of the organization, and that Ecuador did not want to interfere in the electoral process. The statement went on to say “in that respect, Ecuador, exercising its sovereign right, has temporarily restricted access to part of its communications systems in the UK Embassy,” adding that “Ecuador does not yield to pressure from other countries.” WikiLeaks had earlier stated that Ecuador had cut off Mr Assange’s Internet access on the evening of 15 October. The US has denied WikiLeaks accusations that it had asked Ecuador to stop the site from publishing documents relating to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
WikiLeaks has recently been releasing material from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including those from a hack of Mrs Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails. On 15 October, the site released transcripts of paid speeches that Mrs Clinton made to the US investment bank Goldman Sachs in the past, which her campaign had long refused to release. According to the latest leaked emails, Mrs Clinton told a Goldman Sachs conference that she would like to intervene secretly in Syria. She made the remark in answer to a question from Lloyd Blankfein, the bank’s chief executive, in 2013, just months after she left office as secretary of state. She also told employees of a bank in South Carolina, which had paid here about US $225,000 to give a speech, that “my view was you intervene as covertly as is possible for Americans to intervene,” adding,” we used to be much better at this than we are now. Now, you know, everybody can’t help themselves…They have to go out and tell their friendly reporters and somebody else: Look what we’re doing and I want credit for it.” The scripts revealed bantering exchanges with bank executives, which sources say may increase concerns among liberal Democrats that she is too cosy with Wall Street. The Democratic White House candidate’s camp has claimed that the cyber-breach was carried out by Russian hackers with the aim of undermining the US democratic process. Furthermore, while Mrs Clinton’s team has neither confirmed nor denied the leaked emails are authentic, there have been no indications that they are fake.
Transparency activist Julian Assange has sought asylum at London’s Ecuadorean embassy since 2012 in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex assault allegations.
On 26 September, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald held their first of three debates with each accusing the other and a snap poll indicating that the debate gave Mrs Clinton a boost in her chances to win the White House on 8 November
Mrs Clinton was under pressure to perform well in the wake of her bout with pneumonia and a recent drop in opinion polls. However he days of preparation appeared to have paid off in her highly anticipated first 90-minute standoff with Mr Trump, with a CNN/ORC snap poll stating that 62 percent of respondents felt that Mrs Clinton won the debate while 27 percent believed that Mr Trump was the winner.
While initially, Mr trump was strong early on, as the night wore on he appeared to become repetitive and more undisciplined. During the debate, Mrs Clinton accused Mr Trump of racism, sexism and tax avoidance, effectively putting him on the defensive. She sought to raise questions about her opponent’s temperament, business acumen and knowledge. Mr Trump, who is making his first run for public office, used much of his time to argue that the former first lady, US senator and secretary of state had achieved little in public life and that she wants to pursue policies, which have been started by President Barack Obama but which have failed to repair a shattered middle class. He suggested that her disavowal of a trade agreement with Asian countries was insincere and argued that her handling of a nuclear deal with Iran and the so-called Islamic State were disasters. In one of the more heated exchanges during the evening, Mrs Clinton accused Mr Trump of promulgating a “racist lie” by suggesting that President Obama was not born in the United States. The president, who was born in Hawaii, released a long-form birth certificate in 2011 in a bid to put the issue to rest. Only earlier this month did Mr Trump state publically that he believed the president was US-born. In a bid to get a reaction out of Mr Trump, Mrs Clinton suggested that he was refusing to release his tax returns to avoid showing Americans that he either paid next to nothing in federal taxes or that he is not as wealthy as he says he is. Mr Trump replied by saying that as a businessman, paying low taxes was important, adding, “that makes me smart.” He later stated, “I have tremendous income,” adding that it was about time that someone running the country knew something about money. Where Mrs Clinton seemed to pique Mr Trump’s ire was when she brought up his past insults about women, stating, “he loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them and he called this one ‘Miss Piggy’ and then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping.’” During the debate, Mr Trump hinted at wanting to say something but stopped short. Afterwards, he told reporters tat he had though off raising the sex scandal involving Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, who was in the audience with their daughter Chelsea. He stated, “I was going to say something extremely tough to Hillary and her family and I said I can’t do it. I just can do it. Is inappropriate, its not nice.”
After a week of shocking statements made by Republican candidate Donald Trump, new divisions have emerged within the United States Republican Party over its presidential candidate.
In the latest controversy to hit the Republican Party, Mr Trump has refused to support two senior figures within his own party. When asked in an interview for the Washington Post whether he would endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator John McCain, who are both up for re-election in November, Mr Trump replied that he was “just not quite there yet.” Both men publicly criticized him.
In recent days, Mr Trump has come under fire for criticizing the parents of a US Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention at the end of July, the soldier’s father, Khazr Khan, lambasted Mr Trump over his plan to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US. Mr Trump responded by attacking the couple. Both Democratic and Republican leaders, as well as veterans’ group, were quick to criticise Mr Trump, with the incident leading US President Barack Obama to make his strongest comments yet on Mr Trump. On 2 August, President Obama stated that “the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president and he keeps on proving it,” adding, “the notion that he would attack a Gold Star family that made such extraordinary sacrifices, means that he is woefully unprepared to do this job.” In response, Mr Trump dismissed President Obama’s time in the White House, calling it a “disaster,” and stating in a Fox News interview that “he’s been weak, he’s been ineffective…the worst president, maybe, in the history of our country.”
Mr Trump’s campaign has been marked by a series of controversial statements, which appear to be creating further divides within his own party. On 1 August, New York Representative Richard Hanna became the first Republican member of Congress to publicly say that he would vote for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. On Monday, Sally Bradshaw, a top adviser to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, disclosed that Mr Trump’s candidacy had convinced her to leave the Republican Party. Just days later, Republican donor Meg Whitman also announced that she has endorsed his Mrs Clinton, stating that Mr Trump’s “demagoguery” had undermined the national fabric. Writing on Facebook, Ms Whitman stated that to vote Republican out of party loyalty alone “would be to endorse a candidacy that I believe has exploited anger, grievance, xenophobia and racial division,” adding that “Trump’s unsteady hand would endanger our prosperity and national security. His authoritarian character could threaten much more.” Meanwhile senior party activist Jan Halper-Hayes has told the BBC that she though Mr Trump was “psychologically unbalanced.” Dr Halper-Hayes, vice president of Republicans Overseas Worldwide, told the BBC’s Today Programme that she was “very concerned” about Mr Trump’s behaviour, however she did not go so far as to endorse Mrs Clinton. She further stated, “I think there is an element of him that truly is psychologically unbalanced, and I feel very guilty for saying this because I’m a Republican and I want the Republican ticket to win…But Donald is out of control right now and he’s not listening to anyone.” Dozens of senior Republican party figures have already stated that they will not vote for Mr Trump. They include the party’s’ 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
In recent weeks, Mrs Clinton has been actively courting moderate Republicans. Furthermore the latest Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll suggests that she has extended her lead over Mr Trump to eight percentage points, from six points in the previous poll.
List of Republicans Not Voting for Mr Trump
- Barbara Bush, former first lady
- Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, 2016 presidential candidate
- William Cohen, former secretary of defense
- Jeff Flake, Arizona senator
- Lindsey Graham, South Carolina senator, 2016 presidential candidate
- Larry Hogan, Maryland governor
- John Kasich, Ohio governor, 2016 presidential candidate
- Mark Kirk, Illinois senator
- Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, 2012 Republican presidential nominee
- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Congresswoman
- Ben Sasse, Nebraska senator
List of Republicans Voting for Mrs Clinton
- Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state
- Hank Paulson, former treasury secretary
- Brent Scowcroft, former national security adviser
- Richard Hanna, New York Congressman
- Meg Whitman, party donor and fundraiser