Washington, D.C.—U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will conduct his first official tour of Latin America and the Caribbean from February 1-7, including stops in Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, and Jamaica. Just before his departure to Mexico City on February 1, Tillerson will give a speech at the University of Texas at Austin about top policy priorities in the Western Hemisphere. According to a U.S. Department of State background briefing, Tillerson will meet with government leaders and with the chiefs of U.S. diplomatic missions from across the region, including Central America, during the trip. He will be discussing issues such as U.S.-Mexico relations, regional efforts to deal with Venezuela’s tense political situation, and surging coca production in Colombia.
Regional experts at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a leading research and advocacy organization advancing human rights in the Americas, are available for commentary on the following issues regarding Tillerson’s trip:
- WOLA Senior Fellow David Smilde, a Venezuela specialist who moderates WOLA’s Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog, a resource for journalists, policymakers, and others interested in Venezuela. His most recent op-ed for the New York Times pushes back against recent calls for U.S. military action in Venezuela, arguing that the U.S. government and its allies, including the Lima Group and the European Union, should instead coordinate a multilateral approach that focuses on “strategic politics and painstaking diplomacy.”
- WOLA Assistant Director for Venezuela Geoff Ramsey, an expert on politics and human rights in Venezuela, who is tracking the lead-up to the 2018 presidential elections and ongoing negotiations between the Venezuelan government and opposition.
- WOLA Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights Maureen Meyer, an expert on U.S. security cooperation with Mexico, human rights and Mexico’s security forces, and migration trends in the region. She is also available for comment on U.S.-Mexico cooperation on immigration enforcement and border security and how the U.S. government should support efforts to strengthen rule of law and civilian policing in Mexico, rather than shifting focus to back opium poppy crop eradication schemes.
- WOLA Director for the Andes Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, an expert in Colombian human rights, the Colombia peace process, and increased threats facing Colombia’s Afro and indigenous communities. She is available for commentary on the U.S. State Department’s recent lack of leadership in supporting Colombia’s historic peace agreement and the need to pressure Colombia to provide adequate protection for social leaders and human rights defenders, who are experiencing high rates of homicides, intimidation, and death threats. She is also available to comment on current human rights challenges in Argentina.
- WOLA Senior Fellow Jo-Marie Burt, an expert in human rights and transitional justice in Peru. She has been a leading source of analysis the New York Times, NPR, Reuters, the Guardian, Bloomberg, and other media outlets on the near-impeachment of President Pedro Kuczynski and how Peru’s current political conflicts may have prompted the highly controversial humanitarian pardon of former President Alberto Fuijmori, whose 2009 conviction for grave human rights violations was widely hailed as a historic precedent for international justice.
- WOLA Director for Defense Oversight Adam Isacson, an expert in U.S. military and anti-drug cooperation with Latin America. He has written and spoken extensively about the U.S.-Mexico border and regional drug trafficking and security trends. He is a leading source of analysis on why the current U.S. government position on Colombian anti-drug efforts is misguided.
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