"Consider a country where a leader is elected in a free and fair election and then sets about chipping away slowly but surely at the pillars of democracy. ... Now, imagine that leader then seeks to use the levers of democracy to pass anti-democratic reforms — eliminating term limits, packing courts, firing legislators," Blinken told an audience at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. "That's the story of more than one democracy in our hemisphere. And it's one of the ways that democracies can come undone."
Blinken rebuked that display of power grabs just days after a commission set by President Joe Biden to study adding seats to the U.S. Supreme Court asked: "whether Court expansion would be wise." Republican officials praised the remark as a benefit for their case against the expansion campaign, while Blinken situated his comments within a broader case to fortify the rule of law in Latin America.
"So the United States is focusing on how we can more effectively fight corruption, which President Biden has for the first time designated as a core U.S. national security interest," Blinken said. "But because corruption is borderless, and because corrupt actors are very adept at exploiting the weakest links in our interconnected global system, no country can effectively fight corruption alone, or even just with the help of other governments. We need strong anti-corruption partners everywhere — and in every field."
Recently, corruption has surfaced as a mainstay of diplomatic discourse, often as U.S. officials caution that China uses bribes and other illegal actions to grease the Belt and Road Initiative — an overseas investment initiative that Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping has implemented to obtain control of strategically important infrastructure. Blinken made an oblique citation to China as he praised the United States's plans to invest in local communities "rather than miring them in a pernicious cycle of debt," as the Belt and Road Initiative has done in key locales.
"Making these kinds of investments helps puncture the myth that authoritarian governments like to tell about themselves: that they are better at delivering for people's basic needs," he said. "Autocrats offer people a false choice: you can either have basic civil and political rights, or you can have a higher standard of living. But for all the promises autocrats have made about improving people's welfare, their track record, that tells a different story."