Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba Greet Obama with Hope and Skepticism

President Barack Obama The Brazilian government has made it clear that it hopes that the new American President, Barack Obama, will implement a more multilateral foreign policy and will strengthen political dialogue between Washington and BrasÀ­lia, according to Brazilian ambassador to the United States, Antonio Patriota.

"The administration of George Bush was not characterized by multilateralism, but the Obama administration arrives with strong clear signals that it wishes to move forward with international cooperation in the UN and other forums," said ambassador Patriota and an expert in US politics.

He added he was optimistic about a more intense political dialogue with the new US administration in line with what Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has repeatedly stated in that "he wants to be optimistic about the incoming officials."

"We have an agenda which concentrates both on bilateral issues and regional initiatives, we have ongoing dialogue in issues such as Haiti, where Brazil has troops and is in command of the UN peace keeping mission," said ambassador Patriota.

"We also have a specific agenda on Africa, Middle East and other international issues and all this will continue," added the ambassador in an interview aired on the Brazilian government news agency.

Regarding business and investment, "bilateral trade reached US$ 53 billion in 2008, a new record, and we continue to receive US investments and more Brazilian corporations are moving into the US such as Petrobras (oil), Gerdau (steel) and Odebrecht (public works)."

Patriota also mentions the biofuel agreements signed between Lula and Bush in 2007 to help spread the production of such alternative fuels in Central America and the Caribbean.

Finally regarding the candidate for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the Brazilian ambassador said that she has a good experience and will encourage a greater cooperation in social affairs.

"She's concerned about fighting poverty, social promotion, and this could very well be an issue in the agenda with greater emphasis than in the past," concluded Patriota.

Argentina

With President Barack Obama's administration a "new chapter opens and a new relation with Latin America begins," said US ambassador in Argentina Anthony Wayne during a conference in Buenos Aires.

Wayne, a career diplomat, invited Argentine political and business leaders and media representatives to watch President Obama taking office ceremony and made a brief speech, taking questions, on the significance of the incoming administration in the current world political and economic circumstances.

"With President Obama a new chapter opens and a new relation with Latin America begins," underlined Ambassador Wayne.

"Although there will be continuity in the US foreign policy changes will be significant and this is clear," he added. More specifically he said Argentina had been mentioned by President Obama "as a country which can contribute with achievements to the coming Summit of the Americas scheduled for next April in Trinidad Tobago."

Wayne said that presidential transitions, particularly after eight years and with the incoming administration from another party, usually take time, "so the new team will not be at full speed immediately."

In fact the current Under Secretary for Hemispheric Affairs Thomas Shannon has been requested to continue on the job until the summit when president Obama will be meeting his Latin American and Caribbean counterparts, plus visiting the area for the first time in his life.

"Our idea is to continue working closely for cooperation among our countries and so be able to solve those priority issues which make to relations between Argentina and the United States."

He ended saying that "today is a great day for our country, but also a great day for relations with Latin America."

Kirchner

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, currently on a three day visit to Cuba, praised the inauguration speech of President Barack Obama saying it confirms "the good expectations" about the incoming administration.

"Definitions such as that security cannot be imposed at the expense of ideals in a world where in the name of security national sovereignties have been violated, is significant," said Mrs. Kirchner during a conference at the Havana University where she inaugurated a lecture chair dedicated to Argentina's founding father Jose de San Martin.

"It is also very positive to listen that markets can act irresponsibly, and therefore it is necessary to keep track and control them," added the Argentine president.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is the first Argentine president to visit Cuba in 23 years, signed eleven cooperation accords involving health, energy and trade with her counterpart, Raul Castro.

"I'm very impressed with the level of development achieved by Cuba in health and sanitary affairs," said Mrs. Kirchner following the signing ceremony which means both countries will cooperate in the elaboration of strategic pharmaceuticals, retroviral and oncology vaccines, according to the Cuban press.

But in spite of the good relations between the two countries there have been irritating issues particularly that of Cuban opposition leader Hilda Molina, who has been denied a visa by the Cuban authorities to visit her son and grandchildren in Argentina.

A neurologist, Ms Molina has been requesting a visa, unsuccessfully, for almost fifteen years. Although an opponent of the regime, Cuban authorities have argued that Ms Molina's "brains" belong to the country where she received a free scientific education.

Ms Molina was quoted saying that she was hopeful Mrs. Kirchner would bring her case up with President Castro.

"She's a lady, and if it's not too complicated I'm sure she can bring up the issue with a man (Raul Castro) who, we know here in Cuba, he dearly loves his children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren. I don't thing the General should feel embarrassed because two grand children are trying to have their grandmother visit them," said Ms Molina.

Apparently media contacts during the Argentine president visit were limited to the official Cuban press and Mrs. Kirchner is said to have accepted the strict diplomatic protocol conditions for her visit which forbids any contacts outside the agreed agenda.

Mrs. Kirchner begins her official visit to Venezuela today.

Cuba

The official newspaper from the ruling Communist party in Cuba, Gramma said on Tuesday that the moment has come to "make effective" the promises and hopes of change announced by President Barack Obama, although the world crisis and other factors could limit him.

"Beginning today the moment has come to make effective those hopes of change which were at the heart of the message and electoral promises from the winning candidate," said Gramma in a long piece analyzing the US situation signed by former diplomat and international relations expert Ramon Sanchez-Parodi.

Nevertheless "the deterioration of the US and global economies are forcing Obama to relegate to second place some of his initial promises of reform and changes in areas such as health, education and security."

As to foreign policy, Gramma points out that "it still has to be seen, it's a big question mark" since the team includes from orthodox Democrats to Republicans, which have nothing to do with change.

"Obama's main problem, if he believes his own electoral promises, is how to get people moving in support of the promised changes and which the US establishment will reject when it considers they endanger its interests," adds Gramma.

But the question is that because of his bipartisan commitment, "Obama is banned from calling on to the masses directly, avoiding existing structures, and besides he does not have the grassroots political or social organization which would enable him to act effectively."

Interestingly enough Gramma made no specific reference to Obama's promises of lifting the US 47 year trade embargo on Cuba or his willingness to dialogue.

Cuban president Raul Castro has on more than an occasion said that he's willing to talk with "no intermediates" and "on the same level and conditions," although he also added that President Obama has triggered "excessive hopes."

Chavez

Venezuela's leader Hugo Chavez called Tuesday on his followers "not to have illusions" with the new US President Barack Obama and no matter who's in the White House "the Bolivarian revolution will continue to advance."

Chavez said his government has to address a "permanent battle against aggression, against the empire that wants to dominate us again," but the Venezuelan leader also had time to celebrate the departure of George W. Bush.

"Today is a very special day at international level because a new president takes office in the United States. Have no illusions, it's the north American empire," he said during a rally for his indefinite re-election constitutional amendment referendum.

Chavez said he agrees with Brazilian President Lula's call for President Obama to look at Latin America with "a new vision, a new point of view, of respect for the democracies and processes that are advancing."

"Our greetings to the US people. On the other hand we are pleased that a president who spread terror and violence in the world is leaving. Good bye, Mr. Bush; he leaves office with one of the lowest approval ratings in history in the US and the world, since polls were invented. He's the most rejected president in his own country and in the world," emphasized Chavez.

"Let us hope that the new president signals a change for the freedom of peoples. From our side we will continue to advance, no matter who is president in the US. No matter what is the US foreign policy of that government the Bolivarian revolution will continue to advance and to build our national independence."

Over the weekend Chavez reacted to statements from Obama who said that the government of Venezuela had become an impediment for progress in the region.

"It looks as Obama is going to be a fiasco, very similar to that of Mr. Danger Bush," said the controversial Venezuelan leader.

Mercopress

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