Obama and Latin America
Barack Obama was elected 44th president of the US [alst week] in what he called a “defining moment” for the country. What can Obama do in his first 100 days to improve relations between the United Statesw and Latin America? What are Latin Americans expecting of the new president, and how will his performance be measured by the region? Otto Reich, President of Otto Reich Associates LLC, and served as both Special Envoy for Western Hemisphere Initiatives and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs under President George W. Bush: First, President Obama should do no harm. He should re-examine his opposition to free trade agreements. They have been the most effective tool for job creation in the hemisphere in the past two decades. But trade is not enough. In Latin America our over-reliance on diplomacy has resulted in the loss of respect by our friends and of fear by our enemies. Diplomacy has limits. We must actively support our friends, especially Mexico and Colombia and more energetically, but non-belligerently if possible, confront those who call themselves our enemies and behave in a hostile manner, like Chavez, Morales and Correa. Third, he should order US laws to be enforced even if some in the State Department do not like them. Case in point is Section 212 (f) of the Immigration and Nationalities Act, which requires that corrupt officials and private citizens have their US visas revoked. It is no secret that State has been remiss in the enforcement of this law, thus enabling the corruption which undermines the very institutions of democracy the US spends billions trying to strengthen.