Sarah Stephens, Director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, got this fantastic clip of Barack Obama speaking about US policy towards Latin America at the TC Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia — and made some apt comments about Cuba and Venezuela.
This is a great clip and an example of Barack Obama-style foreign policy that I strongly support. I just haven’t heard much from him reflecting this kind of strategic sense of key factors and their synergies applied to other regions of the world.
But in this talk, he reiterates his intention to engage the world’s tough leaders — and mentions Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro as examples.
Obama emphasizes that we’ve been “neglecting” Latin America because of our distraction in Iraq — and he’s absolutely right. He weaves in China by suggesting that it is “sending the diplomats” and “building roads all throughout Latin America.” Again, he’s right on this.
In a perfect world I would have liked to hear him say that opening up travel with Cuba, and commerce, and exchange with Americans writ large — engagement in its fullest sense — would be the way to send a signal not only through Latin America but globally that America is ready to take a very different course in its relations with the entire world. The Cold War rages at its worst still in only one place and that is in US-Cuba relations. Even North Korea is rapidly thawing.
Furthermore, my own realist edge wants us to engage Cuba and Cubans — for our interests — as a warming on that front will put some speed bumps in the way of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez who has been trying to position himself as the inheritor of Fidel Castro’s mantle in South and Central America.
Obama has been great on US-Cuba policy generally, so my hopes to hear more on this — more regularly — may be misplaced.
But it is useful to hear this kind of detail from Obama about foreign policy — particularly his awareness of China’s global charm offensive and of the costs of American distraction in the Middle East.
— Steve Clemons