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There is a lot in Obama’s position speach on Latin America

And he has been building towards this for a while… March 2007, February 2008, Op-Ed, February 2008, stump speech

For a good analysis of Obama’s take on Latin America (Scroll down past the comments on Uribe. This was written up in March, thus it predates this speech. It seems that the quotes used come from the speeches above and an Univision appearance from early February.)

I will not say too much except that, Obama hits the nail on the head regarding the problem of Latin America

We must put forward a vision of democracy that goes beyond the ballot box. We should increase our support for strong legislatures, independent judiciaries, free press, vibrant civil society, honest police forces, religious freedom, and the rule of law. That is how we can support democracy that is strong and sustainable not just on an election day, but in the day to day lives of the people of the Americas.

The list of problems (legislatures, judiciaries, press, corruption, rule of law) are not unique to Cuba and Venezuela, where the governments have squelched the press. Note the story of Yoani Sanchez or Chavez and his battle with the media. But, is a problem on the right as well. Note the pro-US Uribe and his handling of the Supreme Court

Obama recognizes that Responsibility rests with governments in the region, but we must do our part. And he proposes to

substantially increase our aid to the Americas, and embrace the Millennium Development Goals of halving global poverty by 2015. We’ll target support to bottom-up growth through micro financing, vocational training, and small enterprise development. It’s time for the United States to once again be a beacon of hope and a helping hand.

And, indeed, Latin American governments need to step up; they need to, as Alvaro Vargas Llosa has noted in various contexts, eschew caudillismo and they need to embrace the rule of law. (I give you just one of them.. Alvaro is not loved by the left… but that is another post for another day.)

What struck me the most about the speech is how very Alliance for Progress it is, and consciously so. Which allows him to position himself as something of a new FDR (with his four freedoms) and a new JFK. In fact, though FDR’s four freedoms form the putative basis of his agenda, it’s really an updated JFK who gives the solutions. One last thing about FDR’s four freedoms and Obama’s agenda… O’s is really only a three part agenda: political freedom, freedom from fear, and freedom from want, where the first two sort of blur and merge into one another—tyranny, oppression, abuse of power, corruption all contributing to both fear and political instability and/or lack of democracy.

Right near the beginning Obama says It’s time for a new alliance of the Americas. And, the similarities of his speech to JFK’s 1961 speech are undeniable. He even ends with a call to expand the Peace Corps…

Obama We take common pride in a vibrant and diverse democracy, and a hard-earned prosperity. We find common pleasure in the crack of the bat, in the rhythms of our music, and the ease of voices shifting from Spanish or Creole or Portuguese to English. These bonds are built on a foundation of shared history in our hemisphere. Colonized by empires, we share stories of liberation. Confronted by our own imperfections, we are joined in a desire to build a more perfect union. Rich in resources, we have yet to vanquish poverty.

JFK We meet together as firm and ancient friends, united by history and experience and by our determination to advance the values of American civilization. For this new world of ours is not merely an accident of geography. Our continents arc bound together by a common history-the endless exploration of new frontiers. Our nations are the product of a common struggle -the revolt from colonial rule. And our people share a common heritage – the quest for the dignity and the freedom of man. this language is not

Obama The first and most fundamental freedom that we must work for is political freedom. The United States must be a relentless advocate for democracy… There is no place for this kind of tyranny in this hemisphere.

JFK Our Alliance for Progress is an alliance of free governments-and it must work to eliminate tyranny from a hemisphere in which it has no rightful place… This political freedom must be accompanied by social change.

There are, of course, differences. Perhaps the biggest one being that Obama’s speech is still policy in formation, whereas JFK’s was a concrete proposal. Hopefully, once this goes into law it will truly aid in the creation of wealth and stability, not for the oligarchs who have been in power since the conquest, but for the people.



It’s just a mixed editorial, but in general, the Miami Herald really liked the speech and was impressed that he gave it in front of Cubans.

It is a good speech, with the kernels of some really good policy in them.

I don’t blame him for not liking the Alliance for Progress stuff… it has such a mixed history and is an example of “soft imperialism”… then again, so is The Good Neighbor Policy, which was FDR’s program.

One of the difficulties is that it’s hard to get away from paternalism when dealing with Latin America… and both FDR’s and JFK’s attitudes towards Latin America are rife with it. I think, for the most part, Obama avoided that by stressing Todos somos americanos!

The other thing about Latin America is despite the Good Neighbor Policy, despite Alliance for Progress, we still spent most of the century intervening and occupying…

We have treated Latin America like our first mistress. She’s not the wife whom we live with and cheat on, she’s the woman we first set up and who is world weary and used to our dalliances and differently from our wife, with whom we don’t talk about our cheating, hers is the bosom to which we run once our latest love has gone sour. And, since she was our first mistress, we only try to woo her back to us when we see other men standing around her door step.

btw, i’m glad to see i’m not the only one who writes speach (speaking, speaker) when he means speech.