For months, Latin America has been on edge as Donald Trump marched toward the White House on the back of isolationist rhetoric that seemed to blame the region — and its immigrants — for harming the U.S. economy and stealing jobs.
On Wednesday, Latin American leaders were cautiously congratulating the now president-elect and urging him to maintain the United States’ historic ties to the hemisphere.
In a statement, Venezuela’s foreign ministry said it hoped to establish a relationship with Trump “based on respect” and “the non-intervention in domestic affairs.”
Caracas, a longtime Washington foe, is likely hoping the Trump administration will be more hands-off than the current one, which has taken Venezuela to task over its human rights record and nudged the socialist administration into controversial talks with the opposition.
Last month, President Nicolás Maduro was far less diplomatic when he accused both Hillary Clinton and Trump of being “immoral” and said “neither should be president of the United States or any country in the world.”
For some in Venezuela, however, Trump is also reminder of late President Hugo Chávez, a charismatic political outsider who shook up a staid political system and remained in power from 1999-2013.
Jesús “Chuo” Torrealba, the head of Venezuela’s opposition coalition, warned that the political backlash embodied by people like Chávez and Trump can sometimes be “a remedy that’s worse than the sickness.
“Today the entire planet is waking up to uncertainties like the ones we Venezuelans have been facing for at least 17 years,” Torrealba said, warning that Trump would put “U.S. institutions to the test.”
In neighboring Colombia, Trump’s against-all-odds win seemed eerily familiar. Just last month, the Andean nation narrowly rejected a peace deal with the FARC guerrillas, even as all major polls showed the pact would win easy approval.
The United States and Colombia have been long-term allies and Bogotá is counting on U.S. resources to help finance an eventual peace deal with the guerrillas. The Obama administration has pledged $450 million to post-conflict efforts, but there are worries that Trump, who has preached frugality abroad, might not be as willing.
We will get along with all other nations willing to get along with us...We expect to have great, great relationships
President elect Donald Trump
On Wednesday, President Juan Manuel Santos said cooperation between Colombia and the U.S. has always transcended partisanship, and he hoped to continue the work with the Republican.
“We have been, and are honored to be, strategic partners of the United States in Latin America,” he said. “And we hope to continue being the strategic partners of the United States in Latin America.”
Former President Alvaro Uribe, who’s become one of the main critics of the Colombian peace process, used Twitter to warn Trump about hemispheric dangers.
“Congratulations President Trump,” he wrote. “Colombian narco-terrorism and the tyranny of Venezuela are the big enemies of our democracy.”
Trump has said relatively little about Latin American policy except that he plans to crack down on illegal immigrants by building a wall on the Mexican border and that he favors tearing up the NAFTA free-trade deal with Mexico. He’s also a proponent of rolling back the two-year-old detente with Cuba.
The Mexican peso hit a record low overnight on news of Trump’s surge, before recovering during the day.
“I trust that Mexico and the United States can maintain our broad cooperation and mutual respect,”’ Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto wrote on Twitter.
Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorro congratulated Trump, but also registered her disappointment with the outcome.
“Congratulations to [Hillary Clinton] for a great election,” she tweeted. “It’s a shame that a woman so capable of that important responsibility wasn’t elected.”
After months of tough talk on the campaign trail, Trump seemed to soften his stance during Wednesday’s acceptance speech.
“We will double our growth and have the strongest economy anywhere in the world,” he said. “At the same time, we will get along with all other nations willing to get along with us...We expect to have great, great relationships.”