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Will Latin America become a higher priority during second Obama term?


November 07, 2012

MEXICO CITY -- There’s agreement across the region that Latin America wasn’t a priority during the first term of President Barack Obama but analysts say there are issues that might raise the profile of Latin America and the Caribbean during the president’s second term.

Among them: trade, potential political change in the region, the potent voting bloc U.S. Hispanics have become, immigration, changing U.S. attitudes toward drug policy and security.

But, in general, regional expectations for meaningful change in U.S. Latin American and Caribbean policy during Obama’s second term were muted.

The campaigns of both Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney “proved that Latin America is not a priority for the United States,’’ said Simon Pachano, a political science professor at the Latin American Faculty for Social Sciences in Ecuador. “Latin America existed when they were looking for Hispanic votes, but it wasn’t present in their foreign policy proposals….”

The president should concentrate on getting the U.S. economy back on track because “that is the best thing we could do for Latin America’’ in terms of spurring trade and investment, said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas….

Farnsworth, meanwhile, said there are several events that would “grab the attention of political Washington’’ and force more attention on the region: the death of one or both of the Castro brothers and the prospect of fundamental change coming to Cuba, the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and a succession fight, or if China — the main customer for Latin American commodities — doesn’t hit growth of at least 8.5 to 9 percent.

“If any of these things happen, it could change things — and it could change things on a dime,’’ he said last week during a Latin America Predictors Forum in Coral Gables….

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