Trump’s absence from Latin American summit could further hurt his reputation abroad
President Trump’s absence from a global summit in Latin America could further hurt his reputation with Latinos in the U.S. and abroad, especially given his comments on issues affecting the community.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who attended the Summit of the Americas in Peru, said Trump’s absence — the first for a U.S. president in nearly a quarter century — was a “disappointing example of how Latin America often takes a back seat to more pressing national security challenges.”
“I am disappointed that the president won’t make it to Lima. It’s rather symbolic of the broader challenge we face in the region for the better part of the decade. Every time we say we want to focus on the Western Hemisphere, something emerges in the Middle East or somewhere else that distracts our attention,” Rubio said.
But Latin America may already consider working with the U.S. a challenge. In a 2017 Pew Research Center survey of seven Latin American countries, a median of 47 percent said they have a favorable view of the U.S., which Pew said is a considerable decline since the last time the summit was held in 2015.
And much of that may be because of Trump policies that affect their countries. There’s little support for his proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Pew. Majorities are also opposed to Trump’s decision to withdraw from major international trade and climate agreements.
Most people around the world have little confidence in Trump’s leadership, according to a 2017 Pew Research study. But that number is especially high in Latin America, where a median of 77 percent said they have no confidence in the U.S. president regarding world affairs.
While Vice President Pence attended the summit Friday, the absence of the U.S. leader may be sending a less-than-favorable message to world leaders who already are skeptical of the president.
“The truth is, given the level of discourse on trade, immigrants and intervention coming from this administration, not paying much attention to the region may be welcome by a number of governments as they search for their own alternatives. The question, though, is what it means for U.S. leadership, not just now but over the long term,” Christopher Sabatini, executive director of Global Americans, told the Associated Press. The group promotes better engagement in Latin America.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the decline in favorable opinion of the U.S. among Latin American countries was most pronounced in Mexico. Two-thirds of Mexicans approved of the U.S. in 2015, but by 2017, that number had dropped to 36 percent.
Trump said he would remain in D.C. to oversee the response to the reported use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government against a Damascus suburb last weekend.
But some have noted that the president has handled serious issues related to Syria from outside Washington before.
While Trump is focused on addressing the Syria conflict, some might encourage him to prioritize his relationship with the countries to the south of the United States. According to Pew, significant majorities in Latin America have negative views of Trump’s personal characteristics. Most describe him as arrogant, intolerant and dangerous.