Vice President Kamala Harris meets with Guatemalan justice sector leaders at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on May 19, 2021.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
- VP Harris has sought Wall Street and tech executives’ advice on policy, according to Bloomberg.
- Those conversations have spurred over $1.2 billion in corporate investments to “address the root causes of migration.”
- Experts say US meddling in Central America during the Cold War fostered many of the problems we see today.
Vice President Kamala Harris has sought advice on US policy towards Central America from Wall Street and tech executives, according to a report from Bloomberg.
Those relationships and conversations, according to the report, have played a key role in securing over $1.2 billion in private investments in Central America, which the White House has touted as “significant commitments to sustainably address the root causes of migration by promoting economic opportunity.”
“The vice president has worked closely with business leaders across a range of issues — and throughout her career she has viewed the business community as an important partner when it comes to getting things done, with speed and impact in mind,” Mike Pyle, an economic adviser to the vice president, told Bloomberg.
One executive, Cisco Systems CEO Chuck Robbins, told Bloomberg that he and Harris talk occasionally, sometimes to discuss complex policy issues and sometimes for a simple “sanity check.” Other CEOs said Harris has engaged them on the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues, and semiconductor shortages.
Harris has also urged corporate leaders to get on board with the Democratic effort to pass new voting rights legislation, including at a recent meeting at the Treasury Department.
At one point in the spring, Harris sought out the advice of the leaders of Microsoft, Chobani, and Mastercard about how to address issues including poverty, climate change, and corruption in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
“She latched on to that and kind of said, ‘That’s interesting. How many ideas can we come up with? How could a team of people get together?'” Ajay Banga, the executive chairman of Mastercard, told Bloomberg.
According to the report, executives talked with the vice president about “unorthodox ways the federal government had been able to influence foreign policy crises in the past,” including through funding nongovernmental organizations.
Harris went on to gather corporate leaders and representatives from charities in person at the Old Executive Office Building, where they agreed to coordinate charitable efforts in Central America. That resulted in the announcement of a “Call to Action” in May, which includes commitments from private companies to establish job training programs and expand Internet access in the region.
According to Bloomberg, Harris’s talks with Wall Street executives — including the heads of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, and Truist Financial Corporation have led to a successful push to get the banks to loan more pandemic funds to small and minority-owned businesses.
When discussing the root causes of the violence and poverty plaguing Central America, historians and experts on the region often point to US policy during the Cold War. During that period, Washington went to extreme lengths to prevent the spread of communism and uphold US interests. The US propped up right-wing dictators across Latin America, orchestrated coups against democratically elected leaders, and trained death squads that committed atrocities.
“The destabilization in the 1980s — which was very much part of the US cold war effort — was incredibly important in creating the kind of political and economic conditions that exist in those countries today,” Christy Thornton, a sociologist focused on Latin America at Johns Hopkins University, told The Guardian in 2018.
During the 1980s, the US poured over $1 billion in military aid into Honduras as government forces operated as right-wing assassination squads. A declassified reported showed the CIA was aware of the military abuses in Honduras.
Meanwhile, the Reagan administration during that same period backed Guatemalan dictator Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt as he massacred indigenous Mayans. In 2013, Montt was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. Years before, President Ronald Reagan said Montt was “getting a bum rap on human rights.”
In El Salvador in December 1981, forces trained and equipped by the US were involved in the infamous El Mozote massacre in which nearly 1,000 people were killed. The US helped fuel a civil war in El Salvador during that period between government forces and leftist guerrillas that killed over 75,000 people.