Leaning to the Left

Writing from a liberal persuasion

Posts Tagged ‘latin america’

Towards a New Partnership

Posted by Beau Winiger on April 19, 2009

President Obama’s recent meet and greet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez continues to usher in a new era in American relations with the rest of the world. When one takes the time to step back and look at the President’s recent well received tour of Europe, the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba, and now, with this most recent Summit of the Americas, it is hard not to see the immediate contrast between our current President and his predecessor. Could more be done in Cuba? Of course. Should we immediately trust President Chavez? Of course not. But President Obama has taken important first steps in showing the rest of the world that America is no longer the snobby rich kid next door that looks upon the rest of the world as inferiors who should only be tolerated, not listened to.
In the case of the recent announcement of the easing of travel restrictions to Cuba there is a clear example of the President charting a new course in American relations to Latin America. Since 1962 the American embargo has stood against Cuba, serving as a constant talking point for anti-American sentiment in Latin America. Although the embargo was started with definite purpose, it has long since ran its course. The embargo has remained in place seemingly without second thought to its relevance in today’s world. To believe in the idea of changing a dictatorial government from the outside through complementing the restriction of information and goods already put in place by the Cuban government shows little understanding of the way the world works. President Obama’s first step will allow a freer interchange of ideas between America, as well as a bolstered Cuban economy through the unlimited transfer of money from those living in the U.S. to family still in Cuba.  Hopefully these recent actions will lay the important groundwork for the long overdue end to the embargo.

The handshakes and small talk with President Chavez are also important in building a groundwork to better relations with Latin America.  For far too long the U.S. in Latin America has been seen as an imperial force bent on colonialism.  In some cases this has had the ring of truth, while in others it is simple propaganda used by Latin American governments to tighten their strangle hold on power.  But, as so often is the case in politics, it doesn’t always matter which instances are true and which are not.  The truth can lie almost exclusively in the perception.  The previous administration served to further these feelings of a colonial American power by treating Venezuala, and much of Latin America that went against the administration’s wishes, as unworthy of a dialogue.  Such treatment did not magically cause Chavez to lose power, but instead simply took the American voice out of the discussion.  These new overtures towards a respectful dialogue will hopefully take some of the wind out of the sails from Latin American politicians that hope to use American disrespect as a base point.

It is important to remember that handshakes and nicities between Chavez and Obama are only that, handshakes and niceties.  In the world of politics what really counts is action, and it will take much work from both Venezuela and America to prove that they are truly willing to work together as partners.  One can only hope that these first steps are not the last steps, and America can begin to foster a true partnership with her neighbors to the south.  It will be a long struggle, and their is much history on both sides that will need to be forgiven, but lasting change has never been brought about without small steps at the beginning.

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