Joe Biden: key to ending border wall policy, says Guatemalan expert

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Guatemala expert Jason Lindsey argues that the former vice-president could play a key role in current diplomatic crisis

Former US vice-president Joe Biden could play a key role in endangering Donald Trump’s US border wall policy “as promptly as possible”, a Guatemalan foreign policy expert has told the Guardian.

Manuel Chiriboga, the co-director of the University of Central America’s Center for Development Studies, said that Biden was “technically” in charge of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and would be able to persuade US politicians to “come back around” to working on it.

Biden has hinted that he may challenge Trump for the 2020 US presidency and recently brought his wife, Jill, to Guatemala for the inauguration of Donald Ramón Martínez as president.

José Manuel Barrios, president of the National University in Guatemala City, said that Biden had a lot of clout among US legislators and the Obama administration’s decision to grant him an official status had helped to facilitate the negotiation of the relationship with the Obama administration.

“With VP Biden in the US government, maybe we can get someone more favourable to the idea of liberalizing trade and more attentive to the interests of countries such as Guatemala,” Barrios said.

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Jason Lindsey, a professor of Latin American politics at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told the Guardian that it was unlikely Biden would challenge Trump for the Democratic nomination but that he could use his position to ease the negotiations over Nafta.

“Biden could intervene as quickly as possible to start negotiating. He is a very good interlocutor and relations have been improving under Trump,” Lindsey said.

The former vice-president also has a proven track record in coordinating international efforts to establish borders and borders at the negotiating table.

Biden visited his home country at the start of February to reassure Guatemalan senators that they should pass a bill to approve US citizens’ right to work in the country by late February, in time for US tourists to be able to make their way to Guatemala to see the country’s Mayan pyramids.

That plan was scuppered by the outbreak of civil war in El Salvador, a region of violence that is ranked as the most dangerous nation in the world.

The US ambassador to Guatemala, Steven Cloobeck, said in a public statement that “it is unfortunate that this negative development has snarled talks”.

However, Giuliani said on Monday he believed Biden would step in.

“Yes, he’d be great at it,” Giuliani told reporters. “He’s a tough politician. If there was a need to resolve a whole problem, he’d be at the head of the pack.”

For Néstor Muñoz, a Guatemalan political scientist and one of Biden’s biggest backers when he was running for the 2016 Democratic nomination, it was hard to judge the former vice-president’s potential political capital because of the constant changes in the US political landscape.

“All we know is what we’ve seen with the most recent elections,” he said. “There are other things that could go through the government next and beyond.”

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