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Posted on on September 5th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Americas Society / Council of the Americas will have in September, in New York City, events with the Presidents of – Brazil (H.E. Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva – September 22, 2008), Paraguay (H.E. Fernando Lugo – September 23, 2008), Colombia (H.E. Álvaro Uribe Vélez), and Argentina (H.E. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner – September 25, 2008).

It is only natural that Americas Society and the Council follow very closely the US elections – this because of the fact that definite need for improving the US position among the States of the Western Hemisphere is in order, and many are worried about business an d security issues – specially in the light of efforts to bring back Cuba into the Organization of American States.

The following is an article from the Society’s website, and we look forward onto reporting on the meetings with the Presidents.

Vice Presidential Choices, Latin America Policy, and the Hispanic Vote.
Carlos Macias and Carin Zissis, The Americas Society / Council of the Americas.
September 2, 2008

While the U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain secure their nominations and announce running mates, questions arise over what the vice presidential candidates could contribute in terms of winning the Hispanic vote and U.S. policy toward the Western Hemisphere. Obama’s choice of longtime Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) as a vice presidential candidate could bolster the Democratic ticket because of his strong foreign policy credentials. Meanwhile, little is known about where Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin—embroiled in controversy over her teenage daughter’s pregnancy—stands on subjects such as immigration, trade, or U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Winning the Latino voting bloc has emerged as crucial for both camps, with the Democratic and Republican campaigns hiring special advisors to court Hispanic voters. According to a survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, Latino voters prefer Obama over McCain by a 2 to 1 ratio. Dallas Democratic State Representative Rafael Anchía said support for former candidate Hillary Clinton showed that Latinos did not need a Hispanic politician on the ticket to make a choice, responding to a question in a Dallas Morning News article as to whether Obama should have selected New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as a running mate.

Some within the Democratic party fear that Latinos who supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries won’t vote for Obama in November. A National Journal article says that even though Latinos appear to lean toward the Democratic ticket, they lack a deep connection with Obama. Meanwhile, Alaska Governor Palin’s strong opposition to abortion could help with conservative Catholic Latino voters, suggested one expert to the Sacramento Bee.

Yet Palin’s position on the issue of immigration—an important matter to the Latino electorate—remains unclear. On the other hand, Obama and Biden stand aligned. Both emphasize the importance of securing American borders while supporting a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants. Additionally, they voted in support of the “Secure Fence Act of 2006,” which approved construction of a 700 mile-long fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Palin faces criticism for her lack of foreign policy experience and she has not been vocal on regional matters, including U.S. policy toward Cuba. Meanwhile, the island’s political transition has already sparked debate between Obama and McCain. Biden, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has demonstrated support for the U.S. embargo against Cuba. He voted in favor of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which opened the door to suing foreign companies that benefit from confiscated American property in Cuba. Following the resignation of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the Delaware senator proposed easing restrictions on travel and remittances from the United States, establishing direct mail, and supporting the creation of small businesses in the island without relaxing the embargo.

On the subject of trade, Biden has proven wary of Free Trade Agreements (FTA). He voted against FTAs signed with Oman, Singapore, Chile, and Central America. Biden also rejected the U.S.-Peru FTA in December 2007, saying, “[T]he Bush Administration has not proven that it will effectively enforce labor and environmental provisions.” When running for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Biden voiced support for revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, echoing Obama’s pledge to renegotiate the pact’s terms. However, Biden supported the extension of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, which provides preferential trade with Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru for some 5,600 products as part of efforts to eradicate drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, Palin has voiced support for international trade as Alaska’s governor, saying, “We are helping our economy and economies around the world through trade.” Although Palin has not been vocal on specific trade pacts in the Americas, Mexico and Chile stand among Alaska’s top ten export markets.

A new column by the Washington Post’s Marcela Sanchez takes a closer look at what an Obama-Biden victory could mean for U.S. policy toward Latin America and ponders whether it could help restore Washington’s standing in the region.

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