In recent years, there has been a growing backlash against “establishment” governments in South America, mirroring the backlashes we’ve seen in recent years in the US and Europe. Other than Venezuela and the immigration issue, news from South America is usually little noticed in the US, so much of this stuff has happened under the radar.
In the last several years, we have seen populist backlashes in Haiti, Nicaragua, Brazil, Mexico, and most recently in El Salvador. All of these backlashes have produced differing results, but a common theme emerging from all of them has been a desire on the part of the electorates to clean up corruption and perceived mismanagement of the economy that leads to benefits being cut and jobs being lost.
This shakeup has, in my opinion, been mostly bad for China and mostly good for the United States. The latest evidence emerges from El Salvador:
China on Thursday rejected comments by Salvadoran President-elect Nayib Bukele, who accused the Asian power of not playing by the rules and intervening in other nations’ affairs.
Bukele, a political outsider who was elected in February as the Central American nation’s next president, has questioned whether El Salvador should maintain diplomatic relations with China.
In August, El Salvador broke ties with Taiwan to establish relations with China, following the Dominican Republic and Panama. China later offered El Salvador about $150 million for social projects and 3,000 tons of rice to feed thousands of Salvadorans struck by a drought.
“China does not play by the rules; they do not respect the rules,” Bukele said on Wednesday at the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. “They develop projects that are not feasible, leaving countries with huge debt that cannot be paid back and use that as financial leverage.”
“They are not a democracy, but they intervene in your democracy,” Bukele added.
El Salvador’s relations with Washington suffered under the outgoing government of the left-wing Faribundi Marti National Liberation front (FMLN), the party of the country’s former guerrilla movement.
These kinds of anti-China comments from a Latin American president are rather shocking to me. Usually, China has been embraced warmly by our neighbors to the south as a counterbalance against the US. This is the first time I can recall these kinds of open anti-China sentiments being expressed like this – usually, this kind of rhetoric is reserved for the US.
This isn’t the only thing going wrong in the region for China. As I reported last year, Trump has been making a diplomatic push into the Caribbean. In the last twenty years or so, the Caribbean has been neglected by the mostly incompetent US foreign policy establishment, allowing bad actors such as China and Venezuela to move into the area with impunity. That neglect seems to be ending.
Of course, Venezuela is China’s principal ally in the region. However, Beijing’s policy in the region is facing increasing skepticism at home, and I have no doubt that part of the reason Trump is cracking down on Venezuela is to try to push China out of the region.
This kind of news should be much more prominent in our papers and not buried in the backpages of Reuters or small blogs like ours, but the mainstream media is too busy reporting ORANGE MAN BAD and calling conservatives Nazis to notice.