Brazil and Most of Latin America Not on Obama’s Radar

Obama meets Latinos during primary campaign With US Senator Barack Obama the likely presidential candidate for the Democrats in the coming November elections, some Latinamerican experts are looking into his knowledge of the region and trying to guess what awaits this region.

Andres Oppenheimer from The Miami Herald argues that Obama and his main rival Hillary Clinton don't promise much for the region but a good message to the second and fastest growing ethnic group in the US would be, for example, to name a Hispanic Secretary of State. After all two Afro-Americans have held that job.

In an interview with Oppenheimer, Obama was unable to mention his three most respectful Latinamerican leaders. He couldn't think of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva or his Argentinean counterpart, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. He managed to mention the president of Chile but could not recall the name of Chilean leader Michelle Bachelet.

If nominated, however, Obama promised to visit Mexico before the November election. Hillary on the other hand has been in the region 18 times and the Republican John McCain was born in Panama and "travels regularly" to the area.

Anthony Lake, a former National Security advisor under the Clinton administrations and now working for Obama, argues that the fact "the US people decide to choose Obama not only means a fresh face to the world, but a clear message that Americans favor change. This is an essential step to renovate the US leadership in the world."

As to the differences between the leading Democrat candidates: Obama favors sitting to the table with leaders such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez as a "matter of principle" while Hillary believes that meeting adversaries of the US without having a pre-arranged agenda will only expose the US president "to propaganda purposes of such characters."

Regarding the Cuban situation neither Obama nor Clinton are in favor of lifting the embargo. However Obama's advisors said they would pull back some of the travel and remittances restrictions currently effective, an initiative that Hillary supports.

As to the immigration bill Obama states that from the Senate he was far more active in pushing for reform in 2007 that would have helped to legalize millions of undocumented aliens, mostly Mexicans.

As to trade both Obama and Clinton oppose a free trade agreement with Colombia and both would like to see a review of Nafta signed with Mexico in 1994.

Overall Oppenheimer believes any of the Democrat candidates would be better for the region than McCain regarding immigration, but worse than the Republican in trade issues.

Summing up, Obama represents change with some risks of lack of experience and Hillary a marginal reform with greater certainty.

Oppenheimer believes the great challenge is who of the two would be prepared to name a Hispanic as the United States first Secretary of State. Following two Afro-Americans maybe the time has come to choose a member from the leading US minority group and linked to one of the most important regions, but also most forgotten for Washington.



  • Show Comments (3)

  • João da Silva

    [quote]political maturity of latinos in the U.S.[/quote]

    Very interesting comments and I enjoyed reading them. Thank you.

  • Adrianerik

    political maturity of latinos in the U.S.
    I’m at a loss to understand Oppenheimer’s call for a “latino” Secretary of State aside from his statement – “after all, they have had two Afro-Americans.”As an African-American I’ve seen our political acumen develop to the point that a Colin Powell nor a Condy Rice changed our assessment of George Bush’s or the Republican’s agenda. However, I noticed with interest their use of “handsome” latino males (with some success) in reaching for the latino votes. This was a tactic that worked in the more immature years of the african-american electorate but has dubious success today. (we are much more likely to question the motives of the white candidated as well as their African-American representative.) In this day and age, when domestic and international policy is of paramount importance we cannot afford to select personell for sensitive posts merely for the superficial self-esteem of an, arguably, fractured central-american and south-american in the United States. The article does not even make it clear that, given the internal schisms, prejudices and regionals biases within the latino population in the United States, that a Secretary of State from this population, (which includes Cuba, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, among others) would not aggravate issues in this region rather than solve them. That and the fact that the next Secretary of State of the United States has to repair the damaged image of the US, worldwide, not just in South America.

    If the thrust of the article is that the Secretary of State position is some Machivellian chess piece being used to win the latino vote then more analysis of that situation is required. In the last election, with the Republican winning huge percentages of the latino vote, only in Florida were their vote pivotal (and these from the Cubans, not the Puerto Rican and other populations).

    In this election, with the Republicans essentially selling out the latinos (on immigration) the bargaining power of latinos is diminished even more.

    There is a danger to the latino appeal to support “la raza” as evidenced in the recent mayoralty election in Camden, New Jersey. There, a hispanic woman ran for mayor against an African-American woman. There were strong (and very racist) appeals to vote for the hispanic. There were spanish papers that declared any hispanic to be a traitor if they voted against the hispanic candidate. Up until the racist appeal there were many African-Americans (who have had already had African-American mayors) who were prepared to vote for the younger, hispanic candidate. But, when the racist appeals started, the African-Americans (much more mature in political organizing) proceeded to “spank” the hispanic community. The hispanics were fooled by the population numbers into thinking that they had a chance. But only a fraction of African-Americans vote when they feel that nothing is at stake. When attacked, the African-Americans voted in record numbers to easily put the African-American candidate into office. The same thing happened in Florida and it took the Supreme Court (and the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of African-American voters) to give the Republicans the victory in that State.

    The latino community needs to be careful in what they are demanding and the tenor of their tone in demanding it. By statistics, they might be considered the first largest “minority” group (13% vs 12% for African-Americans). But, in contrast to the very cohesive African-Americans the latinos are very balkinized. Puerto Ricans and Cubans have opposite views in almost the entire political spectrum. The democrats will liberalize relations with Cuba (travel and trade). The Florida community can do nothing to stop this. Whether they vote democratic or not.

    Similar to the STATE OF BLACK AMERICA conference being held by Talvis Smiley the latino community would be better served by a definition of its core agenda (not self-esteem initiatives) and joining in solidarity with those groups with whom they share the same objectives.

  • forrest allen brown

    you should hire the best person for the job
    dont hire them just becaus the whites had there turn and so did the blacks now it is time for the spanish ,

    i can see in 15 years or less the spanish will be the majority in the us with the whites then the blacks , and asians

    viva la raz will be there cry and by puting them in power that way you get a new mexico as corupt a brazilian politics well mexico is much wores .

    open up CUBA for US tourtis and money the people will make the change , you gives a flop what the cuban in the US think , ho thats right the democrats & republicans do just fir there votes

    sell off the US for your party that is the new cry

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