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Monday, May 26, 2008

Barack Obama's Curious Latin American Philosophy

Yesterday, I pointed out a minor gaffe by Barack Obama regarding Hugo Chavez. In a speech on Latin America, Obama blamed Bush for the election of Hugo Chavez. Of course, Bush was still Governor of Texas in 1998 when Hugo Chavez was elected.

It turns out that this was not his biggest gaffe. Jake Tapper picks it up...

On Thursday Obama told the Orlando Sentinel that he would meet with Chavez and "one of the obvious high priorities in my talks with President Hugo Chavez would be the fermentation of anti-American sentiment in Latin America, his support of FARC in Colombia and other issues he would want to talk about."

OK, so a strong declaration that Chavez is supporting FARC, which Obama intends to push him on.

But then on Friday he said any government supporting FARC should be isolated.

"We will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments," he said in a speech in Miami. "This behavior must be exposed to international condemnation, regional isolation, and - if need be - strong sanctions. It must not stand."

So he will meet with the leader of a country he simultaneously says should
be isolated? Huh?

Here is how the campaign responded to the perceived inconsistency.

The Obama campaign says there's nothing unusual about proposing the isolation of a country at the same time a President talks about meeting with its country's leader. (The Obama campaign cites how the U.S. is talking to North Korea via the Six-Party talks as an example. Though it might be observed, those diplomatic efforts are quite different than a presidential-level meeting.)

Here is an excerpt of what Obama sees wrong with our Latin American policy and what he would do to resolve it.

Since the Bush Administration launched a misguided war in Iraq, its policy in the Americas has been negligent toward our friends, ineffective with our adversaries, disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples’ lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region.


That is the record – the Bush record in Latin America – that John McCain has chosen to embrace. Senator McCain doesn’t talk about these trends in our hemisphere because he knows that it’s part of the broader Bush-McCain failure to address priorities beyond Iraq. The situation has changed in the Americas, but we’ve failed to change with it. Instead of engaging the people of the region, we’ve acted as if we can still dictate terms unilaterally. We have not offered a clear and comprehensive vision, backed up with strong diplomacy. We are failing to join the battle for hearts and minds. For far too long, Washington has engaged in outdated debates and stuck to tired blueprints on drugs and trade, on democracy and development -- even though they won’t meet the tests of the future.


It’s time for a new alliance of the Americas. After eight years of the failed policies of the past, we need new leadership for the future. After decades pressing for top-down reform, we need an agenda that advances democracy, security, and opportunity from the bottom up. So my policy towards the Americas will be guided by the simple principle that what’s good for the people of the Americas is good for the United States. That means measuring success not just through agreements among governments, but also through the hopes of the child in the favelas of Rio, the security for the policeman in Mexico City, and the answered cries of political prisoners heard from jails in Havana.

The first and most fundamental freedom that we must work for is political freedom. The United States must be a relentless advocate for democracy.

Now, my first question is what about the issue of free trade Senator. The so called "failed policies" that Obama refers to created one of the biggest trading alliances in the world in CAFTA. It is a free trade agreement so lucrative to Latin America that Barack Obama has blamed it for the declining job growth all over the heartland. Certainly, if it is that lucrative to our trading partners, the Bush administration hasn't been as the Senator proclaims

disinterested in the challenges that matter in peoples’ lives, and incapable of advancing our interests in the region.

If anything, he has been to interested in their challenges. So, interested in fact, that the Senator has seen it boomerang on our own economy. Obama's double talk continues...

Instead of engaging the people of the region, we’ve acted as if we can still dictate terms unilaterally.

Of course, CAFTA was agreed upon by more than ten nations, all of which are considered in Latin America (besides the U.S. itself), and yet Obama wants to renegotiate that agreement along with NAFTA. Who exactly is "dictating the terms unilaterally" here?

Furthermore, he refuses to allow the passage of our free trade agreement with Colombia. Colombia has bent over backwards to finalize the terms of this agreement. Furthermore, Colombia is a beacon of democracy and a counterweight to the leftists totalitarians in Venezuela, Bolovia, and Cuba in the region.

Barack Obama makes no mention of the importance of free trade for Latin America. I suppose he thinks that those impoverished nations can rise from third world status without access to the biggest market in the world.

Then, there is the gaffe in which he simultaneously says that Venezuela needs to be engaged and isolated. This is all part of a perverted geopolitical worldview that Obama has that sees engagement with our enemies while we punish our biggest allies where it hurts trade.

Here's the thing that Obama doesn't seem to realize. Any one on one meeting with the likes of Hugo Chavez will have at its center for Chavez more free trade with the U.S. While Chavez may spew anti American vile, he does know where his proverbial bread is buttered, the U.S. market.

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