Friday, April 17, 2009

Obama on Venezuela and Cuba

President Obama is meeting with leaders from both North and South American countries at the Summit of the Americas this weekend, and one of the issues surrounding the summit is whether or not Obama will interact with Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez. Obama has publicly stated that he will speak with Chavez should he initiate conversation, and Chavez wants to restore US-Venezuelan relations to the level that they were at under President Clinton (http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/17/obama.chavez/index.html).

Similarly, Obama has cracked open our doors to Cuba since he began his presidency, allowing for more freedom of movement of both capital and of people between the US and Cuba. He lifted restrictions on Cuban-Americans that prevented them from sending money to relatives in Cuba, and he also removed restrictions on visiting their families back in Cuba. (http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/17/us.cuba/index.html?iref=newssearch).

Are these steps in the right direction for Obama if he wants to make America look like a country that is much more willing to hash out its differences with other countries rather than shut its doors to them as its policy had for the past 8 years?

3 comments:

  1. I think it’s a positive sign that the U.S. under the leadership of President Obama is finally starting to pay attention to Latin America again. Lifting restrictions on travel and monetary transfers to Cuba for Cuban-Americans; the willingness to engage with the Cuban government on a variety of issues; the president shaking hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago; all these things would have been unheard of under the Bush administration.

    Even Secretary of State Clinton’s continued public diplomacy outreach by holding a digital town hall while in the Dominican Republic was lauded in the region. From an article in The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/18/world/americas/18diplo.html?ref=global-home):

    “Like other leaders around the world, Mrs. Clinton’s host, the president of the Dominican Republic, Leonel Fern├índez, responded effusively on Friday, hailing the secretary and her boss, Mr. Obama, for their view on Cuban policy, which he said took ‘great courage’ and could utterly transform the political landscape of Latin America…‘President Obama is paving a new road,’ he said. ‘It is recognition of the fact that previous policies have failed. Fifty years of a policy that has not generated the originally sought purposes can be called a failure.’”

    This from an article in The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/14/AR2009041403199.html?hpid=topnews):

    “‘He is not going to Trinidad with a plan for the hemisphere,’ said Jeffrey Davidow, a former ambassador to Mexico and Obama's special adviser for the summit. ‘He is going to Trinidad with the intention of listening, discussing and dealing with his colleagues as partners.’”

    Admittedly, the Obama administration hasn’t seen much success by trying to reach out to countries such as Iran and North Korea, but the effects of good public diplomacy take time to surface. Engaging with the hundreds of millions of people to the south of our border and treating Latin American countries with respect will only help boost cooperation and counter the rise of anti-Americanism in the region.

    Is this a trend we’re seeing?

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  2. Apparently Venezuela is planning on sending an ambassador back to DC [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8006135.stm] and the US "'will now work" toward returning its ambassador to Venezuela.'"
    There was apparently also indication that Obama would be open to direct talks with Cuba's Raul Castro.

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  3. I have to first say something about the end of the “Obama on Venezuela and Cuba” post. I think it is unfair to only say that the U.S. has shut its doors on countries with which it had differences for the past eight years. The U.S. shut its doors to Cuba in 1962, long before President Bush ever came into office. Whether or not this was meant to be implied, because of the use of “8 years,” that was the implication.

    To move on to the actual point of this post, I do not think it is not a bad idea to try to open up relations and talks with these countries. The Castro brothers will not always run Cuba. Contrary to the popular misconception, they will not live forever. They have successfully avoided direct military conflict with the giant to the North for several decades, but even they cannot avoid their eventual and inevitable appointment with the Grim Reaper.

    Moreover, in Venezuela people are starting to move away from their fanatic Chavista methods. It is slowly happening, but polls have been steadily becoming clearer in showing that people are starting to cool down from the idea of Chavez remaining in office indefinitely. So, since he will be out of office eventually, it would be a good strategic move to befriend the country once again—especially since Venezuela is oil-rich and the U.S. is oil-hungry.

    In all, I think that it would be a good play for President Obama to make by being ready to converse with Cuba and Venezuela. As long as President Obama does not initiate conversation, it is difficult to perceive too many problems from critics here in the U.S. Of course, the very idea that he would even think of talking with these leaders is going to make some people angry, but putting that aside, it could all be good for Obama. If the leaders from these countries do not make the first move, then President Obama does not have to worry about it anyway. If, however, they do initiate conversation, and it does not go well, it would be difficult to blame it on the American president.

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