Global | The Atlantic
Global | The Atlantic
The Internet Speaks American
LONDON—Sharing the internet with America is like sharing your living room with a rhinoceros. It’s huge, it’s right there, and whatever it’s doing now, you sure as hell know about it.This month, Twitter announced that it would restrict retweets for a few weeks, and prompt its users to reconsider sharing content which has been flagged as misinformation. The reason for this change, of course, is the U.S. presidential election. The restricted features will be restored when its result is clear.Anything that makes Twitter fractionally less hellish is welcome, as is the recent crackdown by Facebook and YouTube on QAnon conspiracy groups and Holocaust denial. But from anywhere outside the borders of the U.S., it is hard not to feel faintly aggrieved when reading this news. Hey guys! We have elections too!After all, according to an anguished 6,000-word memo by Sophie Zhang, a departing Facebook data scientist, the political situations in Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Ukraine, and elsewhere have all been negatively influenced by online manipulation. “In the three years I’ve spent at Facebook, I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry,” she wrote, adding that interference in Western Europe and the U.S. was taken more seriously than that in smaller, non-Western countries. (In a statement, Facebook told BuzzFeed: “We investigate each issue carefully, including those that Ms. Zhang raises, before we take action or go out and make claims publicly as a company.”)Every country using the English-language internet experiences a version of this angst—call it the American Rhino Problem. With so many dominant tech companies headquartered in Silicon Valley, the rules of the web are set there—and by politicians in Washington. The West once sent missionaries to bring Christianity to Africa; in 2013, Mark Zuckerberg promised to “bring the world closer together” by providing internet access to millions in the developing world. (That particular project failed, but there are now more Facebook users in India than anywhere else.)Britain, where I live, cohabits particularly closely with the American Rhino, because of our shared language and history. Brits watch Friends. We read John Grisham novels. We know what a sidewalk is, even though it should be called a “pavement.” The website of the BBC, our national broadcaster, is always plastered with stories about the U.S., while Ireland, which was under British rule until a century ago and with whom we share a border, might as well be the moon. Ask 100 Britons to name the current Taoiseach, and you’ll see 99 blank faces (and one inevitable smart-ass). Ask 100 Britons to name the U.S. president, and—well, I envy anyone who draws a blank there. Please give me directions to the rock under which they’ve been living.The British political elite loves the United States: Every political adviser here goes to sleep hugging a West Wing box set. Our pollsters and political scientists become feverishly excited when they can switch from talking about our own elections—which have six-week campaigns, and have been tediously designed so the party with the most votes gets to be in charge—to the byzantine madness of the Electoral College. (Right now, everyone here has strong opinions on Florida.) And so the nonstop reality-television show that is the Trump White House has been inescapable in London, to a degree that is disproportionate even considering America’s undoubted global influence. China makes our toys, our clothes, and our anti-COVID personal protective equipment, but occupies a fraction of our mental bandwidth.Nowhere is the American Rhino more obvious than in social-justice activism. “Over the past couple of months, many Britons have imported American discourse on race wholesale,” the British writer Tomiwa Owolade argued at Persuasion, a newsletter edited by my colleague Yascha Mounk, in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests this summer. “When asked to analyze the experiences of Black people in the United Kingdom, we now talk with an American accent.”Here is one insignificant, but telling, example: In August, multiple stories focused on a photograph of the British singer-songwriter Adele with her hair in Bantu knots. She was “accused of cultural appropriation,” the U.S. entertainment magazine Variety reported. According to the television channel ABC, the star was facing a “backlash” and was “caught in the crossfire.” Fox News had her “slammed” and “taking heat” for the hairstyle. The gossip site PageSix claimed that “a new photo of Adele has sent the internet into a tizzy.” Sensing the high level of interest in the story, British media websites covered it in similar terms.Read: [When the Culture War Comes for the Kids]Yet the controversy had an odd hollowness. One of the few named commentators quoted was Jemele Hill, a contributing writer for The Atlantic, whose tweet expressing mild exasperation with the outfit received 27,000 likes. Incredibly, Fox News quoted “someone” who was offended. (Someone always is.)But prominent Black Britons, including model Naomi Campbell and talent show winner Alexandra Burke, defended the singer. The politician David Lammy, a member of Parliament for the Labour Party, pointed out that Adele was celebrating the annual Notting Hill Carnival, which has a long tradition of masquerade and “dress up.” Most coverage was framed as a debate, but even the few pieces which offered straightforward criticism tended to be mild. One writer acknowledged the “differing responses to the star’s misstep,” while another argued that she could understand that Adele was “trying to be respectful at an event celebrating black culture with her Bantu knots,” before concluding that the look nevertheless “left a bad taste in my mouth.”Sunder Katwala, the chair of the identity-focused think tank British Future, told me it was notable that when the British talk-radio station LBC discussed the controversy, it had to bring on the American writer Ernest Owens to make the case against the singer. “In the United States, Black women are often ridiculed for wearing their hair in cornrows and Bantu knots,” Owens said. “But someone like Adele who is a white woman, she can choose to put that hairstyle on. It’s a trend for her.” Owens later conducted another interview with Talk Radio in London, and his Twitter replies show that the BBC was also trying to get in touch. Somehow, a man from Philadelphia had become the designated arbiter of whether it was appropriate for a British woman to wear a Jamaican flag bikini and a hairstyle named for people in southern Africa. (American readers: If you think being stuck in a culture war is bad, imagine being stuck in someone else’s.)The apparent absence of anyone in Britain who was truly outraged by Adele suggested to Katwala that there was something synthetic about the whole debate. He said he wondered whether it was an attempt by the British right to import American culture wars—which have benefited Republican politicians looking to drum up support among working-class voters. In the U.K., provocateurs such as Piers Morgan seek out the most eye-catching opinions of not only British activists to denounce, but American ones too. Morgan’s new book, Wake Up, is a jeremiad against “the woke world view.” It expresses fury at the British government’s handling of COVID-19 and the failed police investigation into the disappearance of a British toddler, but also about Google removing the egg from its salad emoji, Rose McGowan’s tweet apologizing to Iran for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the use of the N-word in rap music, and the opinion writer Bari Weiss’s resignation from The New York Times.The wall-to-wall coverage of the Adele story and of other apparent outrages reflects a simple demographic and economic truth: There are six times as many Americans as Britons, so English-language publishers around the world are keen to serve the U.S. market. Going viral on the British corner of the internet is less rewarding, in terms of web traffic and advertising revenue, than “breaking America.”But what happens when another country’s conversation about race takes place in an “American accent”? In his article for Persuasion, Owolade argued that this risked cloaking “the reality of Black British lives behind an abstraction that flattens our humanity.” He noted that while many Black Americans are descendants of slaves, the majority of Black Britons are immigrants, or the children of immigrants—which should influence our discussions of diversity initiatives here in Britain. While Black Britons are underrepresented in publishing and the arts, the same is not true in the kinds of professions toward which middle-class immigrants push their children. “In a country in which black people make up only 3 percent of the population, for example, 6 percent of junior doctors are black,” Owolade wrote.Katwala also stressed that British-born people from a Black Caribbean background are four times as likely as Black Americans to have a white partner, and those from a Black African background are twice as likely. The majority of mixed-race Britons are themselves in mixed-race relationships. As a result, he added, the “segregationist strand of Black American race thinking” is not really present in Britain. As for cultural appropriation: “I’ve got an Indian name. I grew up Irish Catholic and did Irish dancing. Where are the boundaries?”This undisputed rule over the English-language internet is not just a problem for smaller countries such as Britain—it isn’t good for the United States either. Being part of the dominant group always leads to shortsightedness: an assumption that your laws, culture, and taboos are universal, the default state of humanity.Citizens of pretty much any other advanced democracy will find it strange to read an American journalist’s claim that “we have long lines for voting for the same reason we have long lines for major concerts: it's a rare event for which demand occurs all at once.” I have voted about a dozen times in Britain, in local and general elections, and have never had to get in line, despite a determinedly lo-fi system. Our polling stations are church halls and elementary schools, our ballots are strangely shaped pieces of paper, and the staff are largely volunteers and retired people. (Many Americans living in affluent, white-majority districts will have had the same smooth experience.) That voting takes so long in some parts of the United States is, itself, a political issue.The situation reminds me of the caustic headline that The Onion, a satirical website, runs every time a mass shooting occurs in the U.S.: “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” In fact, guns may be the best example of how hegemony breeds insularity, as Americans forget how unusual their gun laws are compared with those in other liberal democracies. For that reason, internet discussions of social justice usually treat the widespread presence of guns, and high murder rates, as a given. “Something is weirdly absent from the general discussion about police violence in America: the weapon most commonly used to inflict it,” as my colleague Derek Thompson wrote this summer.From here, that omission looks weird indeed. Although London’s Metropolitan Police Service was notoriously described as “institutionally racist” in 1999, following its bungled investigation into the murder of a young Black man, far fewer officers carry guns in the U.K. than in the U.S. From April 2017 to March 2018, there were only four fatal police shootings in Britain. “American police are always armed, are frequently seen in combat gear, and are instructed that their first duty is to protect fellow officers, not to protect the public,” Kathleen Burk, a professor emerita of modern and contemporary history at University College London, wrote this summer. “Conversely, most policemen in the U.K. are not normally armed and are trained to police with the consent of the population: their main role is to protect the public.” In other words, it’s not that American police are racist and British officers aren’t, but that racism manifests differently in each country—and here, any police bias is far less likely to lead to a death.Still, there are some upsides to living alongside the American Rhinoceros. Every few months, British journalists have a good laugh at one of The New York Times’ irregular forays into describing our country, with its swamps (no), petty crime (cheeky) and taste for boiled mutton (absolutely not). We know that Britain occupies a particular place in the American imagination, because of your interest in our royal family, The Great British Baking Show, and Downton Abbey. You need us to be quaint and backward, because it flatters your own self-image. We are the old country. You are the New World.Living on the American internet is a reminder that for much of Britain’s recent history, we were the ones turning up in foreign countries, lazily declaring them to be a “land of contrasts,” and their people “simple but happy.” As a former colonial power, the current situation is no more than we deserve. America, our former colony, won the internet, and now makes us speak its language.
Joe Biden's Reset Would Start in Latin America
The trip to Guatemala was a crucial one, Joe Biden told the delegation flying with him on Air Force Two. It was January 2016, and the Central American country was emerging from months of political chaos after its president and vice president were ousted and jailed over a multimillion-dollar corruption scheme. Fed up with the political establishment, Guatemalans elevated a TV star, Jimmy Morales, to the presidency. Now Biden would attend Morales’s inauguration, lending legitimacy to the new leader.Biden would spend just one day in Guatemala, but nevertheless squeezed in a private meeting with Morales, led migration talks with the leader and his El Salvadoran and Honduran counterparts, joined a lunch with them and the American delegation, and answered questions from the local press. (Representative Norma Torres, part of the delegation, told me it was obvious to the other presidents in the room for the working lunch that Biden had just given Morales “the talk,” in which he set out the United States’ expectations for Guatemala, and she recounted how the other leaders all seemed to remember having that conversation with Biden at some point too.) While there, Biden pitched his vision for the region, in which the three so-called Northern Triangle countries could work to be more open societies and tackle the “root causes” of mass migration—all with American financial and political backing.On the face of it, the trip was unremarkable: a diplomatic visit in keeping with those made by senior American leaders in the past, containing some combination of platitudes and pressure for the host country. Yet in many ways, Biden’s 2016 tour of Guatemala offers significant insights into what his administration’s foreign policy would look like.President Donald Trump has largely ignored Latin America, part of a broader withdrawal from international affairs that has had the effect of sparing the region of the chaos that his presidency has created when dealing with China, Iran, North Korea, or the future of the NATO alliance. So Latin American leaders have adapted their policies in recent years to account for this absence of U.S. leadership, as well as Trump’s general unpredictability.Judging by his time in office as vice president and as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as well as by the accounts of his close friends, his former aides, and policy experts, Biden would approach the region differently. The former vice president made more trips just to Guatemala—hardly a behemoth such as Mexico or Brazil, or a strategic interest such as Colombia—in his two terms than Trump has made to all of Latin America as president. And his efforts to court the region’s leaders during Barack Obama’s presidency point to another key tenet of Biden’s policies were he to be elected: that a major part of American domestic policy depends on stability along its southern border, and so the U.S. should promote cooperation among countries, and partner with them, to prevent and control migration.[William J. Burns: The United States needs a new foreign policy]Biden’s interest in Latin America, and experience there (he was Obama’s chief emissary to the region)—combined with Trump’s apparent lack of concern for it—thus offers the former vice president an opportunity: Regional leaders have come to accept the ebb and flow of American engagement as a condition of living next to a superpower, but Biden could use Latin America to signal a restoration of Washington’s historic leadership, leveraging his existing relationships and focus on multilateralism to cement American primacy in a region largely eager for a respite from years of erratic diplomacy.Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez speaks with Biden during a press conference in March 2015. (Johan Ordonez / AFP / Getty)Latin American countries have long had good reason to distrust the U.S., which was itself an imperialist power in the region after European nations faded away. Covert CIA operations, coups d’état supported by Washington, and direct American invasions colored Latin American perceptions of the U.S. during the 20th century, and the rise of leftist politicians in the 1990s and 2000s cemented strong anti-American attitudes.So when Obama and Biden entered office in 2009, they were faced with a legacy of decades of harm and distrust. Biden declared on his first visit to the region that “the time of the United States dictating unilaterally, the time where we only talk and don’t listen, is over.” Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed that message in 2013, announcing the era of the Monroe Doctrine—a U.S. policy ostensibly issued to condemn European intervention in the Americas but really just used to justify America’s own intervention in Latin American affairs—to be over, sparking some measure of celebration in the region. (Though the degree of America’s engagement did change, it did intervene in countries’ internal affairs, often with their government’s support.)If the Obama administration sought to characterize its policy toward Latin America as having a softer tone and focused on multilateral cooperation on climate change, trade, migration, and economic development, the Trump administration’s overall strategy has been significantly more haphazard. In some cases, it has sought to strong-arm regional leaders to agree to its demands, but beyond a handful of issues related to migration and Venezuela, the U.S. has noticeably stepped back as social unrest, economic crisis, and political turmoil has rolled through the region.Demonstrations broke out across South America in 2019: Anger at elites and economic inequality fired up protests in Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador, while frustration with corruption drove people to the streets in Peru, and outrage over a tainted presidential election led to an uprising in Bolivia. With regimes falling, governments fleeing capitals, and discontent rising, some fashioned it a “Latin Spring.” At the same time, the coronavirus’s spread (now apparently slowing overall) has led to what looks to be an economic catastrophe. Lockdowns, shutdowns, and national social-distancing efforts have plunged economies into severe recessions, wiping away 20 years’ worth of poverty-reduction efforts and sending unemployment rates soaring.“Latin America is not in good shape. It was not in good shape before the pandemic, and it’s in worse shape now,” Michael Shifter, the president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington, told me.Unrest didn’t end with the pandemic, but social movements did take a pause. Populist leaders in Brazil and Mexico reasserted control over society and assured their people that the public-health crisis was under control. As Southern Hemisphere countries enter the summer months, when the coronavirus is expected to abate, the root causes of discontent are once again fomenting instability, and violence. Embezzlement, price gouging, and graft have been commonplace across the continent during the pandemic. And through it all, America has watched from afar, declining to intervene or lead.[Read: The pandemic isn’t a death knell for populism]The U.S.’s absence throughout the tumult is a snapshot of the larger failings of the Trump administration to take its southern neighbors seriously, Cynthia Arnson, the director of the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program, told me. Aside from renegotiating NAFTA, forcing Central American countries to accept a “safe third country” deal, and inflaming Venezuela’s domestic political crisis, “there hasn’t been much else to U.S. policy in the hemisphere,” she said. Instead, driven by then–National Security Adviser John Bolton, the White House has revived the Monroe Doctrine, asserting a right to intervene in the region to prevent the growth of Russian and Chinese influence—which, ironically, is exactly what has happened as America has stepped away.Tensions between the U.S. and Latin America aren’t new, but the region now holds an overwhelmingly negative perception of Washington—similar to the antagonism of the Bush era of the 2000s. Now, as the region becomes divided between the conservative governments in Central America, Colombia, and Brazil and the leftist leaders around them, the Trump administration’s policies seem to be fueling polarization, Shifter said. “It’s made things worse. So you could see some sort of reduction of polarization with greater predictability by a new administration.”Joe Biden greets students during a visit to Villa Nueva municipality south of Guatemala City in March 2015. (Johan Ordonez / AFP / Getty )There is reason to believe that Latin American leaders might actually trust a President Biden—he has dealt with their contemporaries, and he has already rebuilt American relations with the region once before.“The Trump administration has been very disruptive, and the aftereffects of that are not going to vanish overnight,” Dan Erikson, who is advising Biden on Latin America policy, told me. “But there’s an underlying resilience in the U.S.–Latin American relationship that Joe Biden would be well positioned to capitalize on.”Biden’s history in the region lends him legitimacy. As a senator in the ’90s, he was the point person on the Plan Colombia in Congress, working with the Bill Clinton administration to hash out the details of an anti-drug-trafficking, anti-violence financial and security package that Colombian leaders repeatedly praised. While vice president, he met often with Northern Triangle leaders in their countries and in Washington to draft the guidelines for the Alliance for Prosperity, which offered foreign aid in exchange for domestic reforms and economic investment, and worked to ensure that they also pledged money to anti-poverty and security goals.Biden often expresses his diplomatic approach in terms of personality—at Democratic primary debates and in foreign-policy speeches he has talked about how “all politics is personal, particularly international relations” and spoke about his “relations all over the world,” boasting about how he knows many world leaders. But in Latin America, those relationships were actually personal. He spoke regularly with regional presidents, ministers, and prosecutors. He once joked with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos about knowing him when Santos was a finance minister and Biden was a senator (“Now you’re president and I’m vice president,” Biden said. “It’s obvious who did well!”).Alongside those personal connections, Biden also made multiple official visits. Whereas Trump has visited a Latin American country only once in his presidency—Argentina, for the 2018 G20 Summit in Buenos Aires—and Vice President Mike Pence has traveled to the region five times, Obama made five trips (three in his first term), and Biden visited 16 times, more than any other president or vice president.[Read: The Biden doctrine]Part of the frequency of Biden’s trips is for raw policy reasons: He was assigned the Latin America brief during the Obama administration. But there might also be a deeper emotional underpinning to Biden’s interest in the region. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, a longtime Biden friend, told me that the former vice president also feels a moral obligation for the U.S. to be active in Latin America. Motivated by his Catholic faith, Biden believes Washington has to care for and support its neighbors, especially the Northern Triangle nations. “He believes that we—the U.S.—are the root cause of much of the violence and crime and the lack of economic opportunity in these three countries in Central America,” Carper said. “If it weren’t for our dependence and our reliance on illegal drugs, fostering the sale and the transport of these drugs … life in these countries would be a lot better.”Carper, who like Torres was on Air Force Two for Biden’s last official trip to Guatemala, said he was certain Biden would “make sure that we do a better job, and take seriously our response” to Central and South American countries because “we have a moral responsibility, having created havoc in these countries.”In that vein, Biden’s pitch to Latin America will sound a lot like what he’s said before: that he envisions “a hemisphere that was secure, middle class and democratic, from the northern reaches of Canada to the southern tip of Chile.” Biden plans to deal with root causes and rely on multilateralism. He hasn’t been quiet about America’s neglect of its southern neighbors and has articulated a wide-ranging vision to reengage the region. The “Biden Plan for Central America,” for example, updates the 2015 Alliance for Prosperity to use $4 billion in foreign aid over four years to fund and back anti-corruption efforts in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador; push them to reduce migration and fight human trafficking; and decrease poverty. Biden has long blamed these factors for migration to the United States and violence in migrants’ home countries. Although Bolton spoke of Latin America as “our hemisphere,” in which Washington would call the shots, Biden instead sees the U.S. as “the driving force” to “enable all of our countries to prosper and grow.” The difference between the two views is subtle, but important.“The best way to pursue a reset in Latin America, in many ways, is just to start by listening, which the U.S. rarely does and Trump never does,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former deputy national security adviser and a co-host of the Pod Save the World podcast, told me. “The capacity to make leaders and people in Latin America feel like they’re being heard again by the United States is going to be essential after the Trump administration basically played into every negative stereotype and generalization about how America has acted in that region for the last hundred years.”Shifter, Arnson, and others I spoke with agree with this assessment: A Biden presidency would be welcomed in the region because he would emphasize multilateral dialogue in confronting climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, and economic recovery, after Latin American leaders became “accustomed to being bullied or ignored or arm-twisted into capitulating to U.S. demands” during the Trump years, Arnson said.A new Biden approach to the region would likely also account for the link between foreign and domestic policy on issues such as immigration reform and border security, for example. A return to the traditional asylum process and an overhaul of U.S. immigration law would create space for tougher negotiations with Mexico and Northern Triangle countries on fighting organized crime and cartels.The fact is that although American foreign policy tends to devote much of its attention to events in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, Latin America policy has perhaps the greatest impact on Americans themselves—Latino and Hispanic families are often directly affected by any change in policy in the region. The Trump administration’s decision to end temporary protected status, a program that normalizes the legal status of Salvadorans and Hondurans living in the U.S., and policies that force asylum seekers at the southern border to remain in Mexico while their cases are processed, are just two examples of how foreign and domestic policy mix.“Americans who have family in Latin America understand that,” Rhodes said, “but more broadly, there’s just a lack of an awareness of how closely impacted we are—in terms of the flow of people, in terms of trade, in terms of political dynamics—by what we’re doing in Latin America.”[Anne Applebaum: Venezuela is the eerie endgame of modern politics]That direct link between foreign policy and American politics demonstrates why sustained engagement and longer-term investments in the region are necessary. These nuances in foreign policy also have political ramifications in an election year: As Biden endeavors to juice up his support among Latinos, a more tailored campaign strategy that emphasizes his accomplishments in specific Latin American countries would resonate with smaller communities of Nicaraguans, Hondurans, Salvadorans, Cubans, and Colombians living in swing states such as Florida, Torres told me.Supporters watch Joe Biden as he delivers remarks at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida. (Leah Millis / Reuters)If he wins, Biden might get a second chance at achieving his vision for a free and secure Western Hemisphere. At the very least, these states would have an American ally who actually cares about them—and doesn’t inject himself into domestic affairs to revive a flailing campaign.Biden’s interest in Guatemala captures this dynamic well. When he first championed the Alliance for Prosperity and anti-corruption reforms in the country, Biden dealt with President Otto Pérez Molina, a former army officer accused of links with human-rights abuses and civilian murders. He pushed Molina to accept the U.N.-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym, CICIG), which worked with Guatemala Attorney General Thelma Aldana to investigate official corruption, including allegations of bribery against Molina and his vice president. Both were investigated, ousted, and jailed.Then Biden had the task of assuring Morales, Molina’s successor, that he, too, should support the CICIG and Aldana’s work. But in Trump’s first year in office, Aldana moved to investigate Morales for campaign-finance-law violations. Morales responded by trying to curb the CICIG’s power, and block Aldana’s probe into him and his family. Guatemalan presidents have legal immunity that can be stripped away by a two-thirds vote in the country’s Congress, but because Aldana and the CICIG were also investigating senior lawmakers at the time, her effort died there. The next two years, “the CICIG died a death by a thousand cuts,” Arnson told me.Throughout this whole episode, Morales actively courted Trump’s support to delegitimize the CIGIG and push Aldana out. To an extent, he won a minor victory: The White House remained mum on Morales’s actions. Without a strong American presence, Morales turned out not to be the great crusader for justice Biden had once hoped he would be.To contrast Trump and Biden’s approaches, Senator Carper told me about conversations he had with Biden and Aldana before Guatemala’s 2019 presidential election, when the prosecutor was running to succeed Morales. Carper was about to meet with Biden in Washington when the senator found out Aldana was in town. He told Biden, who stopped what he was doing, tracked her down, and spoke with her on the phone. Biden had met with Aldana on his 2016 trip, and during their conversation three years later, Carper said, the former vice president encouraged her in her campaign, saying, “hopefully, she would win. And when that happened, we would be there to help her and help her government to be successful.”Aldana was ultimately disqualified from running after prosecutors unsealed corruption charges against her that she argued were trumped up. She fled for the U.S., where she was granted political asylum. She now lives outside Washington.The episode illustrates many of the complexities and pitfalls that have troubled U.S. policy in Latin America for decades. Throughout, however, Biden has remained unbowed, his interest in the region clear over the years, and likely to be a centerpiece of his foreign policy should he be elected. “The challenges ahead are formidable,” he wrote in a 2015 op-ed that laid out the administration’s gambit. “But if the political will exists, there is no reason Central America cannot become the next great success story of the Western Hemisphere.”
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