MCALLEN, Texas – U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez has responded to criticism that the Biden Administration has not had a strategic plan for Latin America.
The McAllen Democrat, who attended the recent Summit of the Americas 2022 in Los Angeles, said the U.S. has neglected its neighbors to the south for a lot longer than the last two years.
“I don’t think the United States has paid enough attention to Latin America for the past 30 years, since the Cold War has ended,” Gonzalez said, in his review of the summit.
“One of the major conversations (at the summit) was, hey, we need to engage more because China and Russia are eating our lunch, especially China,” Gonzalez said.
“I think we need to show up; show up with resources and start building relationships the way we used to.”
According to a recent story in Politico, China’s bilateral trade with Latin America surpassed $400 billion in 2021, compared to $295 billion for the U.S. The newspaper said Beijing has also signed up 21 out of 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries for Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure investment projects. “BRI financing has contributed to the $150 billion that China has funneled to Latin American countries for construction of roads, ports and railways between 2005-2019,” the story stated.
Gonzalez responded: “Our absence (from Latin America) is really not good for our national security or our business relationships because we allow China to come in and take advantage. And they have done it very well. We need to up our game in Latin America.”
The Summit of the Americas 2022 ran from June 6 to June 10 and was held in Los Angeles, California. It was the ninth such summit and marked the first time the United States had hosted the event since the inaugural meeting in Miami in 1994.
Rep. Gonzalez is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration and International Economic Policy. In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, Gonzalez said he was disappointed Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador did not attend the Summit of the Americas, though members of his government were there.
“It is really shameful when 38 percent of your country is overrun by cartels,” Gonzalez said. “Where they know for sure the insecurity of their country is going to come up in various conversations (at the summit).”
Gonzalez said his main goal at the summit was to discuss in-depth the insecurity that plagues Mexico. “Mexico is probably the most dangerous country in the hemisphere,” he said.
Asked why the people of the Rio Grande Valley should care about the Summit of the Americas, Gonzalez said: “We are the gateway to the Americas. People are anxious to know what is happening at our borders. Migration is a top issue.”
Gonzalez said the Summit of the Americas was a “great” event.
“It was very busy. We were moving from meeting to meeting. We were able to have some great conversations with leaders from every country in the continent.”
Gonzalez reiterated that his “major concern” at the summit was insecurity in Mexico. “The number everybody is saying is… 38 percent of Mexico is controlled by cartels. Some people say it is more than that,” he said.
Asked to repeat that statistic, Gonzalez said: “Thirty eight percent of Mexican territory is controlled by cartels. That is a huge concern for me and I think eventually, if this continues to fester and grow it will have an impact on trade and commerce and ultimately to the national security concerns of the United States.”
Gonzalez added: “The more security that we are able to bring to northern Mexico, the more of a positive economic impact that we have in South Texas. It spurs more investment, more deposits in our banks, more tourism, and everything that comes with it. If we can bring security to northern Mexico, we help South Texas economically because people feel more comfortable traveling and visiting South Texas.”
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