WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. expert has criticized President Donald Trump's neglect of Latin America in his policy design and his hard stance toward Venezuela and Cuba.
The criticism came as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began his visit to the continent Thursday.
Latin America has suffered from "benign neglect" during the first year of the Trump administration, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West said.
"There has been little effort to engage that region or launch new policies of particular interest there. Trump is much more attuned to Asia and Europe than Latin America," West said.
"He speaks little of that part of the world and hasn't traveled there. This is a loss for the United States."
Venezuela was an exception of sorts, coming in for unwelcome attention. West noted that Trump was "highly critical" of the oil-rich country, placing "sanctions on it in an effort to get it to change its policies."
A supporter of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro holds a placard depicting U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally against imperialism in Caracas, Venezuela Sept. 19, 2017. (Xinhua/REUTERS)
"It is not clear (if) such an effort will work, but it has isolated Venezuela and intensified its economic crisis," West said.
Venezuela had over 3 billion U.S. dollars blocked in the international financial system due to U.S. economic sanctions, Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza said in December.
Members of the national army show locals how to handle an antiaircraft battery during military drills in Caracas on Aug. 26, 2017. Venezuela kicks off two days of military drills in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's threat of military action and newly announced sanctions on the nation. (Xinhua/AFP)
As Venezuela remains crippled by a severe economic crisis sparked by plummeting oil prices, the government claims the crisis has been aggravated by the "economic warfare" unleashed by the U.S.-backed right-wing opposition.
Tillerson, prior to his visit, said in a speech at the University of Texas at Austin Thursday that the United States will continue pressuring the Venezuelan government.
West was also critical of the Trump administration's hard line toward Cuba, which he said "has undermined (former president Barack) Obama's outreach there."
"He (Trump) has reversed some of the diplomatic opening up and made it more difficult to have dialogue with Cuban leaders," West added.
A man holds signs referencing U.S. President Donald Trump's policy on Cuba, June 16, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Xinhua/AFP)
After Trump took office in 2017, the detente in Cuba-U.S. ties since they resumed diplomatic relations in 2015 after a breakup of more than half a century, was reversed.
Last year, the U.S. State Department advised Americans not to travel to Cuba after U.S. diplomats in Havana suffered alleged acoustic attacks.
Trump, in his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, continued to lash out at Cuba and Venezuela, calling them "adversaries".