Joe Biden will shift gears in Latin America

IN 2013, after WikiLeaks revealed that the United States’ National Security Agency had bugged the phone of Dilma Rousseff, then Brazil’s president, Joe Biden called to apologise. A year later the American vice-president went to Brazil for a World Cup football match bearing a gift: declassified documents shedding light on abuses by Brazil’s military dictatorship of 1964-85. Ms Rousseff had herself been tortured.

Ms Rousseff called Mr Biden “a seductive vice-president”. Other Latin American leaders found him less so. Otto Pérez Molina, a former president of Guatemala, rues the day that he bowed to pressure from him to prolong the life of CICIG, a UN-backed graft-fighting agency. He expressed this regret in 2015 from a military prison, where he awaited trial on corruption charges. CICIG supplied the evidence.

Once Mr Biden has the top job, it would not be surprising if his interest in Latin America waned, given other demands on him. The only memorable vignette about the region in Barack Obama’s new memoir is his confession to “smiling and nodding” through a long dinner in 2011, thinking about the war in Libya while Chile’s president droned on about wine exports.

Still, Mr Biden will probably pay heed. He was Mr Obama’s point man for Latin America, visiting 16 times. Regional emergencies, from mass migration to...

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