July 30, 2008

McCain and Obama on Latin America

MABB © ®

In the number of American elections I am following so far, there is a chronic lack of attention to Latin America. That is the reason why, in general, Latin America has to wait until the new administration is in office to find out more details on American foreign policy. But, I am surprised that this time there is very little attention to the region. As I did last time, this election year I am taking a look at the positions of the two incumbents towards Latin America.

The position John McCain, the republican candidate is not very illuminating. Basically, his position es laid out on a speech given to La Raza on July 14. There he mentions that it is important for the US to work with Latin American nations to lower trade barriers and expand commercial exchange. This is the way to, one, to fight instability and, two, to promote economic development, in the region. He does recognize there should be more attention placed in the region by the US government. (if you see more from McCain on Latin America please let us know)

On the contrary, Obama has a whole 13 page paper on Latin America policies. He has thought about it, one can see. The Obama approach to Latin America includes the reinstatement of the Special Envoy figure to deal with the region, enlarge Peace Corps and engage Latino immigrants in the US' relations with Latin America. This is based on three objectives: increase democracy and the rule of law, address common threats (drug trafficking, transnational gangs and terrorism) and combat poverty, hunger, health problems and global warming.

A significant policy change would be to weaken the Cuba embargo and allow more contact with Cubans in the island. Also, he would close Guantanamo.

On immigration, Obama is proposing to increase the number of border officers (with the aim of fighting not only immigration but crime as well).

He will continue supporting Colombia and also intends to be loud on countries who support guerrillas in the region. He will oppose the free trade agreement with Colombia.

On Bolivia, Obama wants to see 100% debt relief (as part of his debt reduction policy for poor nations).

He wants to use remittances as a form of financial incentive to work on social and economic development. He also plans to double foreign aid to 50 billion.

Obama will work to reduce global warming by working together with Latin American nations on sustainable energy such as biofuel, wind, solar and nuclear energy.

For a closer look at Obama's policies read the document linked above.

It is hard to make conclusions, though Obama has earned some points just because he has a paper on Latin America. I also agree that there is tremendous potential when integrating immigrants and first generation immigrants in the diplomatic machinery. After all, these are people who strongly identify with America and know their countries of origin very well.