Five Things You May Have Missed in the US and Americas This Week
From the candidates to be the new US ambassador to the UN to the new row erupting over migration across Central America, here are five things you may have missed in the US and Americas this week.
(1) Murdered Salvadorian archbishop and social reformer Óscar Romero canonized.
1980s-era Salvadoran archbishop Óscar Romero — famous for his compassion towards the poor who fell victim to an assassin during a protest against state terror during the civil war in El Salvador — was canonized by Pope Francis on 14 October 2018.
Romero was assassinated in March 1980 — the day after he implored the Revolutionary Government Junta of El Salvador to end violent repression of left-wing protest movements in the country.
Romero was connected to liberation theology which promotes social and economic justice and advocates for political change to deliver freedom for all marginalized people, once writing that, ‘Between the powerful and the wealthy, and the poor and vulnerable, who should a pastor side with? I have no doubts. A pastor should stay with his people.’ Romero is widely admired in his native El Salvador where over 200,000 people attended his beatification ceremony in the capital San Salvador in 2015.
Pope Francis, who completed Romero’s beatification and canonization, has himself been outspoken in defence of the poor and is well-known for his support for social justice. At the canonization ceremony, Francis wore the blood-stained belt that Romero had been wearing when he was shot.
(2) Women top the list for new US Ambassador to UN.
Several female candidates may be in the running to replace Nikki Haley as the US ambassador to the UN. Jamie McCourt, the current US ambassador to France and Monaco and formerly a corporate attorney who co-chaired President Donald Trump’s campaign in California, is reportedly being considered.
Another candidate is Kelly Knight Craft, the US ambassador to Canada and who previously served as an alternative delegate to the UN under the George W. Bush administration. However, Goldman Sachs executive and former Trump National Security Council Advisor, Dina Powell, was reportedly a front-runner but has now removed herself from the race.
President Trump’s cabinet, following the departure of Haley, now contains just five women, lagging behind those of other administrations. Following the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, and Donald Trump’s widely publicized remarks about the #MeToo movement, the administration may feel a pressure to demonstrate its gender (and racial — Haley was one of four ethnic minorities) inclusivity. In addition, Trump’s approval ratings with women stand at just 32 per cent, compared to 54 per cent with men.
Other credible considerations include: Richard Grenell, US ambassador to Germany, Senator Joseph Lieberman, Heather Nauert, acting undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Senator Kelly Ayotte or retiring Tennessee senator Bob Corker who is the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There is little clarity of when the decision might be made.
(3) Several countries in the Americas offer themselves as ‘golden passports’ to tax havens.
Ten countries from the Americas region are included on a list of those offering residency and/or citizenship in return for financial investments in the country. Compiled by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Panama, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and Turks and Caicos were named as offering ‘golden passports’.
There is concern that these schemes undermine security and prosperity by allowing foreign assets and wealth to be registered in overseas jurisdictions where they are invisible to scrutiny by national governments including tax bodies and intelligence agencies.
Aside from naming and shaming, this list can do little to curb such practices. A similar blacklist released by the EU in 2017, which included Panama, Grenada, St Lucia and Barbados, planned to withhold funds from the bloc if the countries did not reform but had limited impact without meaningful member state engagement.
(4) US formally announces desire to negotiate trade deals with EU, Japan and the UK.
US Trade Representative, Robert E. Lighthizer, has announced his intent to begin formal trade talks with the EU, Japan and the UK. The formal declaration comes after months of talks between Donald Trump and leaders from the three potential bilateral partners. According to Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) rules, the earliest that trade negotiations with the EU and Japan could commence is 14 January 2019. The UK is constrained from formally negotiating any deal until it has officially left the EU but it welcomed the US announcement as a positive sign. Both the EU and Japan have expressed more caution in their reactions, pointing to the challenges and complexities ahead.
In the letters to Congress, Lighthizer states that these negotiations seek to address both tariff and non-tariff barriers in pursuit of free trade. Weeks after the Trump administration renegotiated NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, there are reports that Lighthizer’s intent is to pressure China amid an escalating trade war by pursuing free-trade agreements with other countries under the ‘America First’ trade policy.
(5) US threatens to cut foreign aid to key Central American countries over migration row.
Donald Trump has threatened to cut off aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador if a caravan of several thousand migrants seeking asylum in the US is not stopped. In 2017, the US provided Honduras with $181 million, Guatemala with $177 million and El Salvador with $149 million in aid. Many of the migrants joining the caravan are attempting to escape poverty and violence in their home countries. The Mexican government has sent additional police forces to the border with Guatemala.
What started out as a small group of 160 migrants from Honduras travelling together to seek asylum in Mexico or the US has swelled up to more than 2,000 people (some news sources report up to 4,000 people). The Trump administration continues to pressure Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico to reduce the flow of migrants into the US after another caravan entering the US made the international news in April.