This month, a group of Democratic congresspeople, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) and an envoy from the office of Senator and former presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders (Vermont), will visit Latin America to study ways to improve U.S. relations with the continent. The tour is scheduled for August 14-21 and, as EL PAÍS has learned, will include stops in three countries: Brazil, Chile and Colombia. The three nations’ governments represent the new leftist wave that recently returned to power in the region.
The agenda (which has not yet been made public) is expected to include meetings with Presidents Lula da Silva (Brazil), Gabriel Boric (Chile) and Gustavo Petro (Colombia) and parliamentary representatives. The legislators will also meet with civil society organizations that work “on the frontlines of ecological transitions, democratic transformations and peace negotiations in the countries,” the delegation explains in a joint statement. The trip seeks to “promote a U.S.-Latin American relationship based on mutual respect, understanding and a commitment to cooperation.”
Ocasio-Cortez, a key figure in the Democratic Party’s most progressive wing, and Misty Rebik, Sanders’s chief of staff (sent on behalf of the 81-year-old veteran senator), will be joined by four congressmen: Joaquin Castro and Greg Casar (both from Texas), Nydia Velázquez (New York) and Maxwell Frost (Florida), who is the youngest congressman in the House of Representatives at 26. Castro is a member of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, which is part of the Congressional Foreign Affairs Committee. He recently spearheaded a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to pressure Peru’s President Dina Boluarte over human rights violations occurring in that country. Casar is in his first term as a congressman and belongs to the Progressive Caucus, while Velazquez became the first Puerto Rican woman to serve in Congress in 1993.
“The United States shares critical challenges with our friends in Latin America, but we have too often prioritized corporate interests or great power competition in our historical engagement with the region,” Sanders says. “I hope this delegation will help present a new face to the hemisphere, one based on engagement for the sake of people and planet.”
Along with “peace and democracy,” the environment is one of the trip’s three priorities. The visit is sponsored by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a Washington-based think tank. The United States is the most polluting country in the Americas. Brazil, the first stop, will host the COP30 climate summit in November 2025 in the Amazonian city of Belém.
The Democratic delegation is concerned that the rainforest is approaching a “tipping point after which it would degrade into a savannah.” The legislators said in their joint statement that they are interested in meeting with the indigenous peoples who protect their ancestral lands, the ministries of the environment that promote agreements on resource extraction, and the ministries of the economy that develop climate mitigation projects.
Defense of democracy
The defense of democracy is another ideal that guides the trip. According to the congresspeople, the “twin” insurrections on Capitol Hill, on January 6, 2021, and in Brasilia (on January 8, 2023) “made it clear that the fate of democracy in the United States is closely tied to that of its southern neighbors. “[Our] democracies,” they believe, “not only share the challenge of defending their institutions from political violence, disinformation and other forms of anti-democratic intervention; they also share the challenge of restoring confidence in the ability of those institutions to meet citizens’ fundamental needs.”
Ocasio-Cortez highlights another goal of the trip: exploring how to “confront disinformation and violent threats to our democracies.” The charismatic congresswoman adds that “it’s long past time for a realignment of the United States’ relationship to Latin America. The U.S. needs to publicly acknowledge the harms we’ve committed through interventionist and extractive policies, and chart a new course based on trust and mutual respect.”
As representatives of the country with the continent’s most powerful army, which has aggravated some of these violent processes in the past, the delegation’s third priority focuses on current regional peace processes. According to the joint statement, the legislators seek to “learn about the search for lasting peace, from public efforts to maintain the memory of the dead and disappeared, to multilateral negotiations for the demobilization of armed groups.”
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