U.S. Recalls Top Diplomats From Latin America as Worries Rise Over China’s Influence

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

U.S. Recalls Top Diplomats From Latin America as Worries Rise Over China’s Influence

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Jean Manes, ambassador to El Salvador, is one of three diplomats in Latin America who have been recalled to Washington.CreditCreditSalvador Melendez/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The United States has recalled three chiefs of mission from Latin American nations that cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of recognizing China.

The move comes as American officials have expressed growing unease over China’s rising influence in the region.

The diplomats, who represent the United States in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Panama, will meet with leaders in Washington “to discuss ways in which the United States can support strong, independent, democratic institutions throughout Central America and the Caribbean,” a spokeswoman for the State Department, Heather Nauert, said in a written statement on Friday.

For decades, Taiwan and China have competed for recognition. In 1979, the United States switched its support and officially established sovereign relations with China, and many other countries followed. But Washington has supported any decisions by nations to continue recognizing Taiwan, a self-governing island that China wants to bring under Communist Party rule.

In recent years, China has had success in courting Taiwan’s diplomatic partners. Only 17 nations recognize Taiwan; outside the Vatican and Swaziland, they are all islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean or countries in Latin America.

American officials have expressed growing concern over the shift. The United States sells arms to Taiwan and maintains a diplomatic presence there, called the American Institute in Taiwan, now housed in a new $250 million compound. American officials see Taiwan’s de facto independence as an important hedge against Chinese dominance in the Asia-Pacific region — what the United States now calls the Indo-Pacific as it tries to strengthen ties with South Asian nations to balance against China.

Last month, El Salvador severed ties with Taiwan, prompting the White House to accuse China of “apparent interference” in El Salvador’s domestic politics. American officials fear that the four nations in Central America that still recognize Taiwan — Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua — could soon follow. Last May, Burkina Faso switched recognition to China, leaving Swaziland as the lone holdout in Africa.

In June 2017, Panama cut ties with Taiwan, which surprised the United States government. The American ambassador to Panama at the time, John Feeley, said he learned about the switch from the president, Juan Carlos Varela, only an hour or so before Mr. Varela announced it, and only because he had called Mr. Varela to discuss an unrelated matter.

Mr. Feeley, who left his post in March and is now a consultant for Univision, said in an interview on Saturday that the recall of top American diplomats was significant.

The diplomats returning to Washington are Robin Bernstein, ambassador to the Dominican Republic; Jean Manes, ambassador to El Salvador; and Roxanne Cabral, the chargé d’affaires in Panama. A State Department official said they would return to their posts by Sept. 14.

Wang Yi, center, China’s foreign minister, and Hugo Martinez, right, El Salvador’s foreign minister, at a conference in Santiago, Chile. Last month, El Salvador severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of recognizing China.CreditIvan Alvarado/Reuters

The move “is an appropriate and serious signal by the U.S. government to those three countries and to the Chinese government that it is now reviewing the implications of the diplomatic switch and is worried that U.S. interests could be jeopardized,” Mr. Feeley said.

“My sense is that they will be most focused on the issue of industrial and commercial espionage and the possibility of Beijing using its embassies to expand that activity in those countries and the Caribbean Basin,” he added.

China is now the world’s second-largest economy and is expected to overtake the United States as the largest one in 10 to 15 years.

It is difficult for any nation, especially a small one, to decide not to recognize the sovereignty of China.

China and Taiwan have long engaged in what some observers call “checkbook diplomacy” to woo countries by offering aid or other incentives. China’s financial packages have increased in recent years, especially as it has promoted infrastructure projects abroad and related loans and contracts as part of what it calls its Belt and Road Initiative.

Jorge Guajardo, a former Mexican ambassador to China, said on Saturday that the recall was “heavy handed.” The United States should not be surprised as Latin American governments push back against American requests, he added, when President Trump has continued to alienate the people of Latin America.

“Trump has openly and systematically offended Latin American countries and their people,” Mr. Guajardo wrote in an email. “He labels us as rapists and criminals, has never traveled to the region as president, has deported and separated families, and threatened to cut all sort of aid. China comes with an offer of friendship and economic development (albeit one that I don’t think will pan out). Why the surprise?”

The United States has yet to fill some ambassador posts in the region, including those in Mexico and Panama, Mr. Guajardo noted, whereas China has assigned ambassadors in all Latin American nations with which it has diplomatic relations.

“Save a few countries in Latin America, the region as a whole has a historical preference for the U.S. as the main ally,” he said. “This changed when Trump assumed the presidency. It was his call, his choice, to turn away from the region.”

China has grown more strident over the issue of Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen, a strong critic of Beijing, became president of Taiwan in May 2016. Chinese officials have worked to erase any recognition by corporations of Taiwan’s sovereignty. For example, they successfully pressured international airlines this summer, including those in the United States, to list just “Taipei,” a city designation, in their booking systems rather than phrases that included “Taiwan,” as was the case for decades.

Last month, Ms. Tsai made state visits to Belize and Paraguay to try to strengthen ties with those nations.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A14 of the New York edition with the headline: U.S. Recalls 3 Envoys From Latin America Over Taiwan Reversals. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

These ‘Shithole Countries’ Have a Message for President Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS AND THE WASHINGTON POST)

(DONALD IS ‘THE SHITHOLE’ IN CHIEF)

 

By NASH JENKINS

Updated: January 12, 2018 11:45 AM ET

President Donald Trump reportedly singled out Haiti, El Salvador and parts of Africa as “shithole countries” during a rant about immigration Thursday. Those places aren’t happy

Trump’s comments came during a meeting with lawmakers at the White House held to reach a bipartisan immigration deal, according to the Washington Postwhich broke the news. Sources familiar with the meeting told the Post that the president was amenable to more immigrants from Norway and Asia, whom he says help the country economically, but wondered aloud “why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

According to the Post, Trump also said, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

On Friday morning Trump posted a series of tweets about the immigration deal in which he appeared to deny he said “shithole countries.”

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!” he wrote.

In a second tweet, sent around two hours after the first, Trump said that he “never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country” and that he never uttered the phrase “take them out.”

Trump also claimed that the accusation was “made up” by members of the Democratic Party. “I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians,” he added. “Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”

However, the White House on Thursday did not deny the Post’s report about Trump’s language.

A spokesman for the United Nations said Friday that Trump’s reported words were racist.

“There is no other word one can use but ‘racist’… This isn’t just a story about vulgar language, it’s about opening the door to humanity’s worst side, about validating and encouraging racism and xenophobia,” United Nations human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said. “You cannot dismiss entire countries and continents as ‘shitholes’, whose entire populations, who are not white, are therefore not welcome.”

Here’s how Trump’s alleged “shithole countries” are responding to the remarks:

Haiti

CBS News reports that the Haitian government promptly summoned charge d’affairs Robin Diallo, the top U.S. diplomat in the country, to respond to the comments.

Former Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe tweeted, “SHAME ON TRUMP! The world is witnessing a new low today with this #ShitholeNations remark! totally unacceptable! uncalled for moreover it shows a lack a respect and IGNORANCE never seen before in the recent history of the US by any President! Enough is enough!!”

The Haitian government said in a statement “these insulting and reprehensible statements in no way reflect the virtues of wisdom, restraint and discernment that must be cultivated by any high political authority,” according to the Associated Press, adding that the comment “reflects a totally erroneous and racist view of the Haitian community and its contribution to the United States.”

Other Haitians took to social media to share pictures of their nation’s beautiful beaches to make a point about the president’s alleged remarks.

El Salvador

Hugo Martinez, El Salvador’s foreign minister, tweeted calling on the U.S. government to confirm or deny Trump’s statements. In subsequent tweets, he noted that a number of individuals who helped rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina were from El Salvador and saying that he “feels proud to be Salvadoran.”

Jean Manes, the U.S. envoy to El Salvador, tweeted that the United States “values the friendship and the relationship with the Salvadoran people.” Manes added that she has had “the privilege to travel around this beautiful country and meet thousands of Salvadorans,” and that it is “an honor” to live and work there.”

African Union

The African Union responded to the reported remarks by pointing out many Africans arrived in the U.S. as slaves.

“Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice,” Ebba Kalondo, a spokesperson for the 55-nation African Union, told the Associated Press. “This is particularly surprising as the United States of America remains a global example of how migration gave birth to a nation built on strong values of diversity and opportunity.”

Leanne Manas, a news anchor for the South African Broadcasting Corporation, tweeted Friday morning, “Good morning from the greatest most beautiful “shithole country” in the world!!!”

Somali information minister Abdirahman Omar Osman told CNN, “If it’s real, it doesn’t need a response. Those comments do not deserve a response.”

Mmusi Maimane, the leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance party, described Trump’s comments as “abhorrent” on Twitter. His tweet continued: “He confirms a patronizing view of Africa and promotes a racist agenda. Africa/U.S. relations will take strain from this, with a leader who has failed to reconcile humanity. The hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent.”

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Mexican authorities find 112 migrants huddled in back of truck

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Mexican authorities find 112 migrants huddled in back of truck

Mexican authorities discovered 112 migrants, including four babies, huddled alive in the back of a truck as it traveled along a highway in the country’s south, the attorney general’s office said on Sunday.

The truck, which officials said had ventilation and water for the passengers, was intercepted on a highway that connects the southern states of Chiapas and neighboring Tabasco and the driver was arrested.

Every year, thousands of migrants, mostly Central Americans, escaping from poverty and violence, make their way north through Mexico in hopes of reaching the United States.

The attorney general’s office said in a statement that 23 minors were among the immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Ecuador, found in the back of the truck.

The migrants were awaiting medical checkups.

(Reporting by Noe Torres and Anthony Esposito; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Magnitude 7 offshore quake shakes Central America, no damage seen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Magnitude 7 offshore quake shakes Central America, no damage seen

By Nelson Renteria | SAN SALVADOR

A strong earthquake off the Pacific Coast of Central America shook the region on Thursday just as a hurricane barreled into the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, but there were no immediate reports of any quake damage.

Emergency services in El Salvador said on Twitter it had received no reports of damage at a national level, but urged those living along the country’s Pacific coast to withdraw up to 1 kilometer (0.62 mile) away from the shore.

The 7.0 magnitude quake, initially reported as a magnitude 7.2, was very shallow at 10.3 kilometers (6.4 miles) below the seabed, which would have amplified its effect.

Its epicenter was located some 149 km (93 miles) south-southwest of Puerto Triunfo in El Salvador, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center warned that tsunami waves of up to 1 meter (3 feet) could hit the Pacific coasts of Nicaragua and El Salvador after the quake, but later said that available data showed the threat had passed.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declared a state of emergency due to the quake and Hurricane Otto, which landed on the country’s southeastern coast earlier on Thursday, his spokeswoman said.

“We were serving lunch to the lawmakers and the earthquake started and we felt that it was very strong,” said Jacqueline Najarro, a 38-year-old food seller at the Congress in San Salvador. “We were scared.”

(Additional reporting by Sofia Menchu in Guatemala, Gustavo Palencia in Honduras and Ivan Castro in Nicaragua; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Sandra Maler and Simon Gardner)