Friday, 30 January 2009

U.S. Policy Towards Venezuela and Colombia Will Change Little Under Obama

[Sadly, the Obama years promise more of the same with regard to U.S. foreign policy towards both Venezuela and Colombia.]

U.S. Policy Towards Venezuela and Colombia Will Change Little Under Obama

January 20th 2009, by Garry Leech - Colombia Journal

Recent comments by President-elect Barack Obama, Secretary of State appointee Hilary Clinton and leading congressional Democrats suggest that the incoming U.S. administration will not significantly differ from the Bush administration in its approach towards Venezuela and Colombia. In an interview with the U.S. Spanish-language television network Univision, Obama fired an unprovoked opening salvo across the bow of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez that will likely ensure a continuation of the verbal sparring that has marked relations between the Bush administration and the Venezuelan government. Not surprisingly, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton echoed her future boss’s view of Chávez in her confirmation hearings. Meanwhile, the new House majority leader, Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer, lauded the achievements of Colombia’s President Uribe and, along with leading Democrat Charles Rangel, endorsed the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.

In his interview with Univision, Obama alleged that Chávez had “been a force that has interrupted progress in the region.” Given that neoliberalism is the dominant trend in the region that Chávez’s policies have challenged and thwarted, one can only assume that the spread of free market capitalism is what Obama meant by “progress.” Obama professed his support for free trade during the final presidential debate, despite the fact that the neoliberal model has been rejected by tens of millions of Latin Americans who remain mired in poverty while multinational corporations and the region’s elites become richer. In the Univision interview, the president-elect also went on to suggest that “Venezuela is exporting terrorist activities” by supporting the Colombia’s Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Obama’s remarks closely mirror the positions held by the Bush administration over the past eight years regarding the Venezuelan leader, thereby suggesting that the ideological battle between Washington and Chávez’s socialist government is likely to continue. The president-elect’s comments were particularly troubling given that they were unprovoked. In fact, Chávez has repeatedly verbalized his hopes that ties between the two countries would improve once Obama moved into the White House.

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