Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Obama Summit

Their headline, not mine. The perspective from this side of the Caribbean has changed in just 3 months. The Summit of the Americas opened today with every nation in our hemisphere but Cuba in attendance. 34 in all. The organization was founded in 1994 for “democratically elected leaders” only and has transitioned in theme from primarily economic to political. The summit opened with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez leading a charge to broaden the topics of debate to include the U.S.’s obligation to help countries suffering under the economic crisis and to rough us up a little over the Cuban embargo.

My favorite news and opinion source is El Comercio, a business-oriented daily from Quito. Friday, when the summit opened, they led with “Latin America waits for a response from the U.S.” By Sunday, the editorials started off with, “The Obama Summit” and “A New Era in the Americas.” The text of the main article included the description of our President, “a man who seems to listen carefully to every word his colleagues say and to communicate with every word he says the distance that he wants to place between himself and the belligerent policies of his predecessor.” As Garrison Keillor wrote in November, “Now when we travel we don’t have to pretend to be Canadian.”

Also heartening to see the published picture of President Obama arriving at the summit in Trinidad and Tobago. He was welcomed by a full dress phalynx of their military, all looking a lot like him.

The US Embassy is renegotiating a new drug enforcement agreement with Ecuador. The last one went up in a puff of smoke after some high-level police officers in the special investigation unit let US officials (who were funding the unit) review their computer files, some classified. The episode ended up with two US diplomats getting expelled and the firing of the long-term chief of the drug enforcement unit, Manuel Silva. So, how much of that was the computer deal and how much was the fact that Silva had just busted a former sub-cabinet minister, a close colleague of Correa’s chancellor, for cooperating with the FARC’s drug-running business? Sometimes it seems that the President here, Rafael Correa, is so busy being leftist-populist with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega that he’s willing to ally with some pretty shady characters. Meanwhile, Columbia’s President Uribe, an unabashed U.S. ally, has gotten a constitutional amendment passed to allow him yet another term in office. Can be hard to tell who’s got the white hat on around here. - Kristen


Chuck W said...

Kris - always great to get the Latin American perspective on things. I read "Venas Abiertas" while in Ecuador (no, not in Spanish, sadly), and was surprised to see Chavez produce it at the summit. Struck me as a cheap stunt to stick Obama with it, even though I agree with the anti-imperial slant. But it did make me wish Obama had produced a copy of "The General in His Labyrinth" or something equally snarky about Latin strongmen!

Kay said...

Forget the NYT - I'll just read your blog! (Yes, I learned many new things from it this evening). Thanks for the glimpse into the political scene there.

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