Trump's Latin America policy, so far generally subdued, may become more active. The administration has sharply antagonised Mexico with harsh immigration and trade policies. Trump also appears inclined to take strong positions on Cuba and Venezuela, and his tilt against trade agreements could present strategic opportunities for China in the region.

Although a couple of issues that were central to Donald Trump's campaign narrative involved Latin America – namely, curbing illegal immigration and opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) – the region has been less prominent on his agenda than several others since his inauguration. To be sure, President Trump has spoken with the leaders of Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Colombia, while Vice President Mike Pence has called the president of Brazil. Readouts from these calls, with the notable exception of a fraught one with the Mexican president, reflect a fairly quiet Latin American policy that reiterates the importance of ongoing partnerships with the United States and promotes democracy and stability in the region.

So far, senior staffing has tracked the administration's apparent lack of emphasis on hemispheric affairs. Soon after the 13 February resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, a staffing shake-up led to the dismissal of Craig Deare, the National Security Council (NSC) staff's senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs, for criticising administration policy and highlighting the NSC's dysfunction in a speech at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. While Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly served as commander of the US Southern Command, overseeing defence activities south of Mexico, Deare had been the Trump administration's only senior adviser dedicated to Latin American issues. The administration's Latin America policy therefore remains a work in progress. But certain administration approaches to major issues in Latin America can be identified.

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