Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | March 1, 2011

Obama, Por Favor, Don’t Put Up a Wall

President Obama will visiting Latin America—Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago and San Salvador—from March 19th to 23rd.

The White House said: “The President will meet with the leaders and speak to the peoples of these countries to discuss a broad range of issues including economic prosperity and job creation through increased trade and partnerships, energy and security cooperation, shared values and other issues of regional and global concern.”

Sergio Bitar, currently a visiting senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, wrote: “If Obama acknowledges that Latin America questions the United States, his credibility will grow, affection for him will persist, and more solid bases could be established for future relations.”

President Obama is well-liked in Latin America, following the world’s disenchantment with W. And, as Mr. Bitar points out, the U.S. should cease its paternalistic discourse with Latin America, and so engage in new long-term partnerships (that don’t involve a physical wall or the reference to America’s back-yard).

Mr. Bitar added: “There is no shared global outlook to serve as the basis for a common agenda. Constant reference is made (by the U.S.) to steps that should be taken in Latin America. … Latin Americans will pay closer attention to them if they are presented in line with the measures that the United States is taking and the goals it has set in its domestic policy (State of the Union address, 2011). There is a very close match between that message to the U.S. Congress and the goals and policies of many Latin American countries in fields such as education, infrastructure, services, the efficiency of the state apparatus, energy, the environment and research (even though they are admittedly of a different order of magnitude and depth).”

Read Mr. Bitar’s paper here.

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