Latin America Unrest Forces Biden to Confront Challenges to Democracy Near House

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Once one of the wealthiest countries in South America, Venezuela is now one of the poorest, emaciated by corruption and sanctions that have ruined its lucrative oil industry. Mr Maduro remains in power with Russian and Cuban support.

An estimated four million refugees have since fled Venezuela in one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. Almost half of them are in neighboring Colombia, which was grappling with its own civil unrest this spring when protesters angry about national taxes and coronavirus fatigue clashed with security forces.

In an interview in May, Colombian President Iván Duque Márquez said he had no doubt that the United States would continue to support his country, despite human rights concerns about his administration’s tactics.

“We have to be completely honest and put their hands on our hearts for a moment,” Duque told reporters for the New York Times. “We live in very difficult times around the world. We have seen a great deal of political polarization. You live it in the United States. And you know, when you combine polarization with social media and opinions, which are sometimes not based on thorough understanding, they can also create violence. “

Other Latin American autocrats have followed Maduro’s lead.

In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega launched nationwide crackdown on the news media and civil society ahead of the November elections for a fourth term. On the sidelines of a meeting of the Central American Foreign Ministers last month, Foreign Minister Antony J. Blinken discreetly urged Nicaragua’s top diplomats to ensure a free and fair vote.

The next day, Mr. Ortega’s government arrested one of his most prominent political opponents.

US officials later insisted it was important for the Biden administration to alert Nicaragua and other Latin American countries to the growing United States concerns about the challenges of democracy. State Department official Mr. Ventrell said the aggression of Mr. Ortega – a former revolutionary and long a thorn in the side of the United States – was evidence of how weak his support was among Nicaraguan voters.

But the Biden government is all too aware of the delicate nature of democracy in the region.

“Let’s be honest: democracies are fragile things. I fully acknowledge that, ”said Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, in a speech at Central American University in San Salvador last month.