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A new dawn for US-Latin American relations
kartaraz | January 20, 2009 at 11:01 amby
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When later on today Barack Obama is sworn in, a new era of hope will be starting for relations between the two giants of the Americas.
It is difficult to feel sorry for George W. Bush. He leaves the White House with the lowest approval ratings of any president in the US after eight disastrous years of illegal wars, illegal detention camps, illegal interrogation techniques and the biggest economic crisis in 70 years.
It is difficult too to avoid thinking ‘I told you so’ like millions of people did when Bush was, after much debate and voting irregularities in his brother’s state, appointed by his father’s friends in an election he did not win. One wonders how different the world would be had Al Gore been sworn in as president of the United States in January 2001.
Then again, perhaps a second Bush was what was needed for Americans to wake up to the importance of electing a good leader. Could anyone imagine McCain and Palin on their way to the White House today? Please God no…
One of the things, perhaps not their biggest or most important in the president’s in tray will be the country’s relations with Latin America. They have suffered enormously under a Bush administration more interested in the Middle East and on the need to find allies for the ‘war on terror’.
The result has been a Latin America that, with the exception of Colombia and Peru, is seeking to create a more united front and one that is less dependent on its northern neighbour’s demands. Within it, a number of countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are openly challenging US foreign policy.
So it is important that the new American administration works at normalising relations as soon as possible. Here, the first salvo has already been fired by Lula, senior member of the Latin American club of countries, asking the US to lift its illegal embargo to Cuba as a first step in this process.
Although Hilary Clinton has already said that the new administration will reverse some of the penalties imposed by Bush on travel to the island for Cuban Americans, nobody expects relations to be normalised straight away.
For Bolivia, relations with the US couldn’t be worse. Not only was the US Ambassador Philip Goldberg expelled in September for fomenting the violent uprising of opposition prefects, Bolivia also expelled the DEA from the country. In turn, the US expelled the Bolivian ambassador in Washington and has recently cancelled, for Bolivia only, the preferential trade status it maintains with the Andean nations.
This week Bolivia has announced that the country is prepared to normalise relations with the US in a framework of mutual respect. Will Hillary Clinton be up to it? I’m keeping my fingers crossed.