Back in September 2008, I wrote a piece for Inter Press Service examining the proposed policies towards Latin America offered by both John McCain and Barack Obama. What did I find?
WASHINGTON, Sep 3 (IPS) – With an election to replace an immensely unpopular president just weeks away, Republican nominee John McCain and Democratic candidate Barack Obama have both sought to distance themselves from the record of George W. Bush – but when it comes to Latin America, neither candidate promises a major break with the policies of the last eight years.
From maintaining the embargo against Cuba to expanding efforts to fight the war on drugs in Mexico and Colombia, McCain and Obama support most aspects of current U.S. policy toward Latin America. Indeed, outside of their shared pledge to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, there is little to suggest that either candidate would overhaul the Bush administration’s approach to the region.
To be fair, though he isn’t the progressive messiah some of his most feverish supporters once claimed he would be — and the more delusional amongst them claim he is — Obama has largely fulfilled the Latin America agenda he outlined during the campaign, minus that whole closing Guantanamo thing. Indeed, in a recent analysis of Obama’s actual policy toward Latin America since taking office, “More Continuity Than Change,” IPS’ DC Bureau Chief Jim Lobe observes that, “Nearly one year after his inauguration, hopes that President Barack Obama would bring fundamental changes to U.S. relations with Latin American have faded badly”:
[D]espite a promising start with Obama’s appearance and pledge to pursue “engagement based on mutual respect” at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad last April, his administration has fumbled a number of issues in ways that have contributed to what appears to be the growing disillusionment.
Most recently, the administration abruptly reversed its demand – along with that of all of the Latin American states – that [Honduran President Manuel] Zelaya, who was ousted in a military coup d’etat last June be reinstated before the November elections. And the U.S. failed to consult and reassure its sister nations in advance about a new, 10-year accord with Colombia that gives Washington access to seven military bases around the country.