Obama cautiously hailed in Latin America

05 November 2008 20:12  [Source: ICIS news]

Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama at a Venezuelan newstandHOUSTON (ICIS news)--Although many Latin American countries expressed a clear preference for a Barack Obama victory, the region took a cautious approach and expected to remain a low priority in the new president's agenda, regional media said on Wednesday.

Brazil’s interests appeared to be better served by John McCain, because he had promised to remove import tariffs for Brazilian ethanol. However, the Brazilian press was openly pro-Obama.

Brazilian President Luis Lula da Silva said that Obama's victory was a triumph of democracy. He exhorted Obama to end the commercial isolation of Cuba and to develop a solution to the conflict in the Middle East, according to the Brazilian press.

Cuba and Venezuela were anxious to test Obama’s stated intentions to open dialog.

Colombia appeared to be more affected by the change in the White House because Obama has denounced persecution of union leaders and civilian deaths by right-wing paramilitaries supported by the government. The human-rights situation in Colombia has eroded US congressional support for a free-trade agreement with that country.

Recent resignations of high-profile military commanders in Colombia were interpreted by many as an attempt by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to gain favour with the coming US administration.

Peru under President Alan Garcia had portrayed itself as an attractive destination for investments in energy and petrochemical projects - a reputation it would like to preserve with the new US government.

For Bolivia, the change in the White House was perceived as chance to improve deteriorated relations.

It was not clear what the future could bring to Mexico under an Obama administration that has promised to review the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Conservative immigration policies had affected relations between the two countries during the last years of the George Bush administration. The issue was expected to have a large bearing on future negotiations between the two countries.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro was more direct, saying prior to the election, “Whoever takes the White House will have to respect us.”

Maduro summed up his position by saying that outgoing President George Bush had destroyed relations with Latin America, the Caribbean and the rest of the world, according to the Spanish news agency EFE.

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By: George Martin
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