SAN ANTONIO – Long-running corruption in Central America will be the biggest challenge confronting Vice President Kamala Harris, said Dr. Betsy Smith, Ph.D, chair of the department of political science at St. Mary’s University and an expert on Democratic crises in Latin America.
“We really have to consider how we’re going to solve the problem when the people who can help us solve the problem are a part of the problem,” Smith said.
President Biden has made Vice President Harris his point person in Central America, the same role he had in the Obama administration during the migrant surges in 2014 and 2015.
The U.S. government already has been airing public service announcements trying to discourage unaccompanied minors from leaving.
Asking Harris to take on the root causes of the current influx at the border, “makes a lot of sense,” Smith said.
She said it would be Harris’ first major initiative under the Biden administration.
“This is really a first chance to show her skills and to show her abilities as the vice president,” Smith said.
She said since much of the corruption in the Central American countries like Honduras is fueled by drug cartels, Harris’ experience dismantling cartels while she was California Attorney General could be beneficial.
The conflict over drugs will mean having “very serious and difficult conversations with the leadership in these countries,” Smith said.
She said Harris won’t be just dealing with the leadership, but other branches of government, as well as community groups and nonprofit organizations that are working directly with the people.
“That gives me a lot of hope as an expert in this area,” Smith said. “There is going to be an engagement at multiple levels within society and the government to address this issue.”
She said Harris should stress that foreign aid is contingent on whether those governments actually make the lives of their people better instead of worse.
“We need to see actual outcomes,” Smith said.