Latin American countries welcome the election of the new USA president, Barack Obama. From leftist governments like the ones of Caracas and La Paz to the most USA friends like Bogotá and Mexico, there were words of sympathy for the Democratic Senator, who is also the first Afro-American person to be elected as president of the North American country. For many Latin American governments, Obama represents a big change in the foreign politics of Washington toward the region, especially in what is expected on migration policies and trade.
While a Bush administration was more concentrated in its Iraq war, the Middle East conflict, the war on terror and the financial crisis, Latin America considered in general that the Washington-Lat. America agenda was put aside by the Bush administration. At the other side, countries like Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia have shown in recent years a strong position against the USA policies in the region. Even countries like Mexico, an important USA ally, got its differences with the White House for situations like the increase of Mexican illegal citizens in the USA territory. A common will to end a 46 years embargo of Cuba was a claim of Latin America recently. All these events will be faced by a new US president that never has been southern of the Rio Grande, like it was pointed out by John McCain in the McCain-Obama last debate. However, Obama has promised to open a dialogue with controversial Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frías, while continuing the support of the fight against drug trafficking in Colombia. Obama is also favorable to the politics of president Álvaro Uribe Vélez to combat FARC guerrillas, even outside Colombian, as it happened already in a Colombian army incursion into the Ecuadorian territory in March 2008 (ref. La Nación: “Operativo anti-FARC desata grave crisis diplomática.” March 3 2008.)
President Hugo Chávez said that the election of Obama means a big change in the Western Hemisphere, a change that, according to his words, has started from South America in goverments like his. The relations among Chávez and Bush have been difficult and the Venezuelan president has even insult Bush in national and international statements, including the expell of the USA Ambassador. Chávez bought weapons to Russia saying that he fears a US invasion to his country. Obama said during his campaign that he would approach Chávez during his mandate.
The Colombian president, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, declared that he will look for support either from Republicans or Democrats for the continuity of the fight against drug mafias and terrorism – referring especially to FARC guerrillas. President Uribe said also that he will look for the approval of the Free Trade Agreement with USA, a campaign that got great opposition by the Democrats side in the USA Congress. Obama has said several times that he would support a FTA with Colombia only if there is a strong guarantee in the protection of the human rights of work unionist activists, a problem that still serious in the South American nation, according to human right organizations. Obama mentioned also in his campaign that the Colombian goverment has the right to fight the FARC terrorism even if this one takes refuge out of Colombia, a remark that reminds the Colombian-Ecuadorian crisis when the army follows a military race against a FARC guerrilla camp that was located in Ecuadorian territory and that killed one of the strongest FARC men, Raul Reyes, in March 2008.
More at the south, Bolivian president Evo Morales was very simpathetic to Obama and even compared himself to the Afro-American new elected-president. The statements of Morales on Obama come after a strong deterioration in La Paz-Washignton relations when president Morales stopped any DEA operation in Bolivia, accusing the USA agency of conspiracy against his goverment. Morales asked also to Obama the suspension of the 46 years embargo to Cuba and he hoped that the relations with the North American country will improve during the Obama´s administration.
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, by his part, centralized also his statement in the USA embargo to Cuba and said that there is not reason to continue with it. The Brazilian president has had good relations with Bush and said that he hopes Brazil-USA will increase strongest friendship and that Washintong will invest more in the productive development of the region.
President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, a country that belongs to the Free Trade Agreement of North America with USA and Canada, congratulated new elected-president Barack Obama. Drug mafias and illegal migration have been an issue of discussion between Washington and Mexico recently.
A feeling of hope and a best understanding with USA was the general reaction in La Habana after the American elections showed the results in favor of the Democratic Senator. Cuba, a state that has been communist for the last four decades and has confronted the influence of the USA in the Western Hemisphere, endured a long term undifined embargo that has been critized by Latin America during the Hispanic-American Summit in El Salvador last month. During his campaign to the White House, Sen. Obama said that he would be ready for a dialogue with president Raúl Castro. By his part, former Cuban president Fidel Castro declared that he was happy of the election of a “most intelligent, well educated and fair” candidate, making a comparisson with Republican John McCain.
At the most southern part of the continent two presidents, who were the first women as chief of state of their country, joined the chorus of praises for the Obama´s election to the White House. President Michelle Bachelet of Chile said that Obama has as his main principles social justice and same opportunities. She said that Obama has the same ideals of change and hope of the Chileans.
In Argentina, President Cristina Fernández centralized her statement in the financial crisis and said that she hopes that Obama will think in common and global actions to overcome the situation.
President Tabaré Vásquez of Uruguay said that he hopes that United States will stablish an igualitarian relation toward his country, while José Miguel Insulza, the general secretary of the American Organization States, put as priority for the Obama´s agenda issues like migration, energy and economical and technical cooperation.