President Obama’s Speech in Chile

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On March 21, President Obama delivered his second major policy speech on Latin America, since assuming office, to an audience gather outside of the Palacio de la Moneda Cultural Center in Santiago, Chile.

Reports and analyses on the President’s Latin America tour are pouring in – keep checking our blog for ours – and we wanted to present a couple of them:

The National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, the William Velazquez Institute and the Mexican American Political Association sent the President a letter regarding his trip to the region and offering some concrete policy proposals. Here are some points that most resonated with us:

  • “Your [President Obama] victory in 2008 stimulated hope among Latin American societies that long for normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations; and end to the so called ‘war on drugs’; a recalibration of U.S. trade and investment policies; and a firm commitment to nonintervention and respect for sovereignty in the region.”
  • “The U.S. has a large moral debt to these countries [Brazil, Chile and El Salvador]: In each case past Administrations (early 1960’s through early 1990’s) supported directly or indirectly the ascent and continuation in power of brutal dictatorships.”

The letter offers the President a concrete set of proposals that “might contribute to a mutually beneficial shared future”:

  1. Organize a U.S.-Latin America and Caribbean Partnership, inclusive of civil society organizations (particularly those representing organized Latin American and Caribbean migrant communities) intended to educate the general public in the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean, about the multiple benefits rendered by migration and to promote the respect of the rights of migrant persons, irrespective to where they are and their migratory status. Regrettably, the predominant view about migrants that has come to dominate public discourse paints migrant persons as threats, or, in the best of cases, renders them invisible. Without a corrective intervention, it will be difficult to reach well informed and lasting policy changes.
  2. Conduct a thorough and public review of existing U.S. policies towards Latin America and the Caribbean, and to come up with a new generation of policy goals and practices intended to support the social, economic and political reforms carried out by different countries in this region in recent years, that have resulted in more equitable and sustainable societies. This includes the cases of nations often considered as adversaries to the U.S., such as Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. The goal of shared and sustainable prosperity throughout the Americas, that truly betters the life of the vast majority of people, is the best guarantee to ensure stable, mutually beneficial and ever more democratic societies in Latin America, the Caribbean and here in the U.S..
  3. Recent events in the Middle East have taught us all how important it is to balance the relationship with government on one hand, and with key civil society actors on the other. In the case of U.S. policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean, we recommend a new emphasis on building relationships with key civil society actors. The case of Honduras is worthy of special mention…., we respectfully urge you to take a leading role in holding the current Honduran government committed to unconditional respect for human rights and accountable for human rights violations committed under their watch.

Our great friend Adam Isacson reviews the President’s trip in a 20 minute podcast, here.

The LA Times (“Latin America increasingly important to the U.S., Obama says”), the Miami Herald (“Obama wins high marks on Latin America tour”), and the Financial Times, (“Obama hits positive notes in Latin America”) all posted interesting analysis of the President’s tour, as well.