552399
Prof Andy Knight.

The economic, social and political crisis which has resulted in thousands of Venezuelans seeking refugee and asylum status in T&T can come to an end.

Former director of the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus, Prof Andy Knight, believes the solution to this problem hinges on Democratic candidate Joe Biden winning the United States presidency.

He made the prediction yesterday as he gave his views on whether Biden or incumbent Donald Trump would eventually triumph.

Knight predicted three possible outcomes for the US election. He said if Trump is victorious it will be by a narrow margin. Another possibility, he said, is that Biden could win in a tight result that could be contested by Trump.

The third, he said, “I am operating on the assumption that there will be a Biden victor.”

His said his observations had led him to conclude that Trump will be a one-term president.

“Why would anyone try to suppress the vote if they thought that they would likely win? Trump had been engaged in undermining the democratic process, in trying to get his supporters to intimidate voters whom they think might vote in favour of Biden,” Knight said.

Asked what the US election may mean for the Caribbean, Knight said although foreign policy was not a defining issue in this election campaign, it was safe to say the issues that were at front and centre of the campaigning had implications for the Caribbean.

He identified COVID-19, the failing US economy, climate change, the George Floyd killing and the upsurge in racial injustice and inequality as issues that could have consequences for this region.

“I think that while the essentials of substantive US foreign policy with respect to the Caribbean is unlikely to change drastically under a Biden presidency, there will be a major shift in terms of style and rhetoric,” he said.

Knight, now a political science professor at the University of Alberta, Canada, described Trump as a bombastic and divisive president.

“He has literally divided not only America but also the leadership in the Caribbean. Trump’s support for the controversial head of the OAS, Secretary-General Luis Almagro from Uruguay, we witnessed how Trump, with the collusion of the OAS Secretary-General, has tried to undermine democracy in Bolivia.”

Knight said Trump’s administration has also been using the OAS to push for military support to the Venezuelan opposition in an attempt to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro.

“The coercive and aggressive US foreign policy, which has included strangulating sanctions against the Venezuela President, which has mostly hurt the Venezuelan people, has been conducted with the support of Almagro and caused major division among Caricom countries. This has been Trump’s legacy in the Caribbean.”

If Biden becomes the new US president, Knight said the region could witness an end to such coercive and unproductive foreign policy and perhaps a swing to negotiated settlements of the situation in Venezuela.

“Biden is very comfortable with Caribbean leaders and my sense is that he will be more trusted by Maduro than Trump was. I think that Biden will respect the wishes of Caricom members to maintain the Caribbean as a zone of peace.”

Should Biden do that, Knight said this will be very good for the region.

“I can see Biden working closely with Caribbean leaders to find ways to resolve the major refugee crisis which has resulted in thousands of Venezuelan refugees and asylum seekers coming into Trinidad and Tobago and over 1.6 million migrants flooding into Colombia. At the end of the day, under a Biden administration, one could expect a normalcy in the conduct of foreign policy and a less erratic decision-making process. The Caribbean will be able to breathe.”

Knight also expects Biden to work with Caricom countries through the Caribbean Basin Initiative to promote economic development vie the private sector in this region.

“In that sense, there will be little change between Biden and Trump. But in general, I am convinced that Biden, once he is president, will quickly revert to the policies of the Obama era, when he served as vice-president of the US,” Knight said.

“There will be a focus on US border security, without the building of expensive walls for which Mexico has not paid a peso. There will be a return to a more humane and sensible immigration reform, which would allow “dreamers” in the US – including those of Caribbean heritage, a path to citizenship and a chance to continue to contribute to American society and economy.”

This, Knight said, would be in stark contrast to Trump’s current xenophobic and racist immigration policy.

“The embrace of multilateralism in addressing problems that are clearly “intermestic” will be one of the defining characteristics of a Biden presidency,” he said.

Regardless of who wins, Knight said the diminishing role of the US in global affairs will continue.

“Biden will simply have to acknowledge that the US is declining as a global hegemony and that China is gaining on the US in a number of areas,” he said.

“This is a reality that existed before Trump came to office. Sure, Trump’s erratic style and jingoistic rhetoric made the relationship between the US and China worse. Biden will have to find a way to repair that damaged relationship and bring an end to the trade wars between the two countries.”