US presidential candidate Barack Obama is proposing a drastic change in US policy towards Brazil and its Latinamerican neighbors turning it into an "active policy," which includes Venezuela and Cuba, said the US Senator main advisor for the region.
"The concept is very different from the current President George Bush administration and which Republican candidate John McCain promises to continue," said Daniel Restrepo interviewed in Denver, Colorado, during the preparations for the Democrat Convention.
"The basic idea of Senator Obama Barack is that what is good for the peoples of the Americas is good for the United States. We must be a partner and not a savior", added Restrepo who is a Senior Fellow and Director of The Americas Project at American Progress in Washington and has worked extensively at the US Congress.
Obama favors dialogue and breaking with the tradition "of recent years of trying to impose a model and stating that Washington has the answers for all the questions of the region".
According to Restrepo this means the US will cease to try to influence elections in the region, "if you respect democracy, you must also respect results", but he also believes that "democracy is not only about voting".
Restrepo recalled that Obama has criticized the "undemocratic way in which elected President Hugo Chavez rules Venezuela, his anti US rhetoric and policies and his attempts to influence events in other countries of the region".
However "part of the problem has been the mismanagement of the Bush administration that faced Chavez rhetorically and celebrated the failed coup of April 11, 2002. This gave a huge boost to Chávez," Restrepo admitted.
"The lack of a specific policy and concern for the region generated a vacuum which Chávez has tried to fill with his anti-US rhetoric and with diplomacy fueled on petrodollars." emphasized Obama's Latinamerican advisor.
Regarding Venezuela, Restrepo said the Democrat candidate is considering two venues: "To fill the vacuum left by the Bush administration offering another perspective and a new relationship with all the countries of the Hemisphere." A second solution, much more spectacular, would be to "talk directly to Chávez at the right time and at the place chosen by Obama."
Similarly with the Cuban case: Obama has promised to lift restrictions imposed by the Bush administration regarding traveling to the island and remittances from next of kin.
According to Restrepo Obama is also willing to meet Cuban leaders, "no tool which can help with the freedom of the Cuban people will be dismissed; it would be an excellent opportunity to tell Cuban leaders that the first task to change things would be the liberation of all political prisoners, with no conditions".
"We are willing to normalize relations, but based on the freedom of the Cuban people".
As to Colombia, Washington's main ally in the region, Restrepo said Obama will work for the approval of the free trade agreement which has been stalled in the US Congress by his fellow democrats, because of alleged human rights violations by the government.
"Obama recognizes the achievements of president (Alvaro) Uribe and we have a close and dynamic relation with Colombia", he said adding that "Uribe's security successes must be praised but violence against political and community leaders must be taken to justice and punished".
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