As the November 6 United States presidential elections draw closer, some Latin Americans are weighing which candidates would benefit the region. President Barack Obama didn’t mention Latin America during the three presidential debates in October, while Republican candidate Mitt Romney discussed his general desire to expand trade with the region. Neither candidate has mentioned Brazil on the campaign trail, and both tended to discuss Mexico and Colombia in a security context. “Brazil is an important international player, not just a Latin American player,” AS/COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth told The Christian Science Monitor in an interview about the October 22 presidential debate on foreign policy. “Latin America is of rising importance in the world, [we should have been hearing how the candidates] would work with Brazils, and Mexicos, and Colombias.”
Here is a sampling of Latin American perspectives on the U.S. election.
- Brazil: An Ibope Inteligência survey found that 93 percent of Brazilians would vote for Obama, while 7 percent support Romney. Of those interviewed, 54 percent categorized the American election as “of great importance.” Brazilian reporter Christine Gerk told GlobalPost: “I would vote for Obama because of his policies, especially his foreign policy. It is in Brazilians' interest for him to be anti-war.” The New York Times points out that major newspapers feature daily coverage of the race with correspondents reporting from swing states, and that Brazilians were shocked that Romney said he would cut funding for PBS. “The claim…focused attention not only on the issue of government assistance for public broadcasting, an idea that enjoys broad support in Brazil, but also the deep cultural ties between the United States and Brazil,” New York Times Brazil bureau chief Simon Romero explained. Obama enjoys widespread admiration in Brazil, in part because his mixed racial heritage resonates with many Brazilians, reports The Washington Post.
- Chile: Chile-based América Economía wrote about the election, saying: “Both candidates’ platforms show a lack of interest in the region. Mexico and Latin America are only mentioned when discussing drugs and immigration: domestic, not foreign policy. Whoever wins, the next four years of White House politics toward Latin America will be inaction. And that’s not necessarily bad: there’s been inaction from the American government toward Latin America in the last 12 years and the region has grown more than ever.”
- Colombia: A September National Consulting Center survey found that 84 percent of Colombians support Obama, while 16 percent support Romney. Of those interviewed, 69 percent said the U.S. elections have a large impact on the country. In April, President Juan Manuel Santos said: “If the United States realizes that its strategic interests are not in Afghanistan or Pakistan, but in Latin America, and if they realize that working together can create prosperity…then we’ll achieve great results.”
- Mexico: A September Consulta Mitofsky survey found that 36 percent of Mexicans support Obama, while 6 percent support Romney. Nearly 36 percent of those interviewed said they have no interest in the American election. Meanwhile, 42 percent of Mexicans with family living in the United States favor Obama and 8 percent support Romney. Younger Mexicans tend to support Obama more than older Mexicans, while those with higher levels of education tend to favor Obama. Asked about the election, Mexican architect Alejandro Ramirez told GlobalPost he supported the Republican candidate, explaining: “Romney would be more internationally focused. He'd try to look for new alliances with...[Mexican President Enrique] Peña Nieto...to fight the increasing [economic] threats from Asia and Europe.”
- Venezuela: In September, then Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro (now the vice president) said that no matter who wins the election, the Venezuelan government would be interested in normalizing relations if there is a “basis of respect,” a sense of equality, and no intervention in Venezuelan affairs. Maduro affirmed that “the moment has arrived” for normalizing relations. On October 1, President Hugo Chávez said he would vote for Obama if he could. “I hope I don’t do him any harm by saying that,” he added. He said Obama is a “good guy” and that he’s “very rational.” The president also mentioned that if Obama defeats “the extreme right,” it could begin a process of normalizing relations with Venezuela.
- On Tuesday, the United States and Panama announced that a bilateral free-trade agreement signed last year will go into effect on October 31. Discussing the implementation, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said that along with more exports, the accord “provides U.S. firms and workers improved access to customers in Panama’s $22 billion services market, including in areas such as financial, telecommunications, computer, express delivery, energy, environmental, and professional services.”
- Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Relations Antonio Patriota visited Washington on October 23 and 24, meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon. Patriota also attended the fourth U.S.-Brazil Global Partnership Dialogue to discuss initiatives on education, science, technology, innovation, and social inclusion.
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Haitian President Michel Martelly and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) President Luis Alberto Moreno in northern Haiti for the opening of Caracol Industrial Park, a $300 million project funded by the IDB and the U.S. and Haitian governments. “We have been united behind a single goal–making investments in this country’s people and your infrastructure that help put Haiti finally on the path to broad-based economic growth with a more vibrant private sector and less dependence on foreign assistance,” Clinton said.
- U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta S. Jacobson traveled to Colombia on October 23 to attend the fifth Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas ministerial meeting. The summit includes officials from 15 Western Hemisphere countries to “share best practices to promote inclusive economic growth and prosperity.”