lunes, octubre 20, 2008

Obama's Position on Latin America

Obama's Position on Latin America
Substantial change for new times
Alfredo Ascanio (askain)
Published 2008-10-21 09:04 (KST)

Daniel Restrepo is advisor on hemispheric affairs for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. In a phone conversation with reporter Armando Avellaneda from Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional, Restrepo said that Obama could promote a different political relationship with Latin America.

During a
  • speech
  • given in Miami previously this year, Obama assured that he did not want to impose solutions to the countries of Latin America, but only to find some common ground. This would be reached via diplomatic contacts without preconditions, keeping respect for the principles of democracy, and only if those countries agreed to meeting.

    Obama wants to reach consensus on equitable distribution of wealth, improved security for the people and strengthened democratic institutions. His strategy for Latin America is different from those of Republican candidate John McCain and current president George W. Bush, who have given more weight to free trade agreements.

    During these years the United States has moved away from Latin America and left a vacuum that has been exploited by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez to promote an anti-US agenda.

    Obama wants to be a partner of Latin America to help fight drug and weapon traffic and money laundering, while promoting micro-credits for small businesses and vocational education.

    Advisor Restrepo reported that the US monthly expenditure in Iraq is $11 billion, yet its investments in Latin America are so small that they can be described as symbolic.

    Oil consumption in the future will fall below current levels. This fact will affect its production in countries like Venezuela, Mexico and Ecuador. However, the promotion of alternative, renewable energy sources will benefit all in the region, including the current oil producers.

    Another problem that Obama feels is very delicate is the external support received by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the presence of Russia and Iran in the Caribbean and South America.

    All of the above are positive points, but many Hispanics in the US claim that the candidates have been unclear on the issue of immigration reform.

    El Nacional published a long story by Juan Jesus Aznar, from Spanish newspaper El Pais. The report describes the many obstacles Senator Obama faces due to racial issues: for example, 17 percent of white Democrats would support John McCain. Obama's team is afraid of a
  • Bradley effect
  • , which refers to the time when a black mayor of Los Angeles lost the California gobernatorial elections in 1982 in spite of the success predicted by polls.

    That story is an example of what is called in political science a
  • spiral of silence
  • ; it results in an unexpected twist in the votes cast in the ballot box, which do not correspond to the opinions expressed in public, because that a person is less likely to voice an opinion on a topic if one feels that one is in the minority for fear of reprisal or isolation from the majority.

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