Saturday, April 18, 2009

Obama pledges "equal partnership" with Latin America, a "new beginning" with Cuba

I recently wrote a graduate paper on U.S. relations with Latin America under the Bush administration. While they were, of course, poor, I honestly couldn't say that the Bush administration had any worse attitude with our southern neighbors than previous ones - it only seemed worse because populist leaders such as Hugo Chavez came to power and became vocal about their discontent. I figured the Obama administration would curb some of the worst policies (as we saw with the lifting of the family travel restrictions on Cuba), but even I questioned whether we'd see radical change given the nation's history. But President Obama does indeed seem to be seeking a new era of relations if his comments at the Americas summit are any indication:

Venturing into an unfamiliar region of the world, President Barack Obama made a splash on a stage of leaders from across the Americas on Friday and promised to offer them a new style of U.S. politics: more pragmatism, less arrogance.

"We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms," the president told the heads of every democratic government across the Western Hemisphere.

"But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership," Obama said. "There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations."

Such an idea — that the United States is equal, despite being keeper of the world's most powerful military and leader of an economy that helps steer the globe — was telling.
The language was more striking on Cuba:

But he made a point of referring to Cuba, whose government has been at ideological odds with Washington for half a century following Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

"The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled in overcoming decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day," Obama said in his address.

"Over the past two years, I have indicated -- and I repeat today -- that I am prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues -- from human rights, free speech and democratic reform to drugs, migration and economic issues," he added.
Though it is plainly obvious that our Cuba policy has failed, it is still a shock to see a U.S. President finally admit it and attempt to do something different. We will see how successful it is, but it's definitely a good start.

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