The United States has lacked a grand strategy to repel the Chinese regime from expanding its influence in Latin America, according to security expert Joseph Humire.
Washington has been absent in the region for the past three decades, and as a result, “China has seen an opportunity and has really capitalized on the opportunity,” Humire recently told Epoch TV’s “China Insider” program.
“The Reagan administration … is the last U.S. administration that had a broader policy for Latin America with the Cold War and anti-communism,” he said.
Humire referred to the special bond between the United States and the region, saying that Latin America shares a cultural affinity with and historical ties with America.
But, “the problem is we don’t talk about this,” he said, adding that Washington, instead, talks “transactionally” focusing on trade and other economic ties.
Furthermore, according to the expert, this region is very “nascent in terms of democracy.”
“Many countries in Latin America didn’t achieve … full democracy until the mid-20th century, or even in some cases, the late 20th century, meaning they had periods of dictatorships,” Humire said.
As a result, he said, these countries are now seeking to develop peacefully.
“Latin America is not looking for war. They’re not looking for conflict,” Humire said
“They’re looking just to be able to grow to have their democracies mature to the point that they can have respect for their own national sovereignty,” he added.
To help them reach that end, the United States should extend its cooperation in the region beyond merely the economic sphere, according to Humire.
Washington should engage with the region with a bigger message, he said. “The biggest message is that the investments that the United States made in Latin America are meant to drive a peaceful region, a peaceful neighborhood.”
“It’s meant to create a neighborhood that’s both stable, prosperous, and peaceful, something that can’t be done with the investments [by] China and other parts of the world,” he added.
Meanwhile, Humire said China has rapidly expanded its trade relations in the Western hemisphere.
“If you go back 20 years ago, China was a trade partner of only three countries… in South America. Fast forward 10 years by 2010, [they are] the top trade partner of seven of the twelve sovereign nations in South America,” Humire said.
“Today, they are the top trade partner of nine of the top sovereign nations in South America,” he added.
But China’s trade relationships with Latin America come with political and geopolitical and even military ambitions, Humire noted.
“We are not far away from the Chinese government having military outposts inside Latin America, very close to the U.S. border,” he said.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the State Department for comment.