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The Obama Administration and the Americas

Agenda for Change

foreword by Strobe Talbott. edited by Abraham F. Lowenthal, Theodore Piccone, and Laurence Whitehead

Publication Year: 2009

The Obama administration inherits a daunting set of domestic and international policy challenges. It would be tempting to put Latin America and the Caribbean on the back burner, for their nations pose no imminent security threat nor do they seem at first blush critical to the most pressing problems of U.S. foreign policy. The Obama Administration and the Americas, however, argues that the new administration should focus early and strategically on Latin America.

Our neighbors to the south impact daily on the lives of U.S. citizens, on issues such as energy, narcotics, immigration, trade, and jobs. And these are the countries most likely to partner with Washington on the basis of shared values, culture, and interests. Recognized experts from Latin America, the United States, and Europe suggest in this timely volume that the United States should seize an early opportunity to engage Latin America, recognizing the region's diversity but also its shared concerns and aspirations.

The consolidation of stable democracies and rule of law in Latin America has long been an expressed goal of both parties in Washington, but the backlash from Iraq, the global financial crisis, and other recent experiences may discourage the use of U.S. influence and assistance to nurture democratic governance. The authors emphasize case-by-case, sophisticated, and multilateral approaches to dealing with such hard cases as Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, and Venezuela.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

The Obama administration faces a difficult legacy when it comes to U.S. relations with its neighbors to the south. Often neglected, or other times viewed through the lens of global struggles against communism, terrorism, or narcotics, the Latin America and Caribbean region has not received the kind of attention it deserves. Looking ahead, if viewed only as a function of the ...

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pp. xi-xiv

The Obama administration has inherited a daunting set of domestic and international policy challenges. It is coping with a cascading and interconnected series of financial and economic problems on a greater scale than any faced since the Great Depression of the 1930s.At the same time, it must handle a large accumulated legacy of other tough problems: two wars, the continuing ...

Part One: Overview

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pp. 1

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Chapter 1: Renewing Cooperation in the Americas

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pp. 3-21

The Obama administration faces daunting challenges at home and abroad, the most demanding agenda that any U.S. government has inherited in many decades. From the start it has had to cope with an economy in distress, reeling in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage meltdown, the broader financial turmoil, and the wider and deepening recession—while trying to prevent both ...

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Chapter 2: Building a Constructive Inter-American Partnership

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pp. 22-46

In their limited discussion of Latin America, both of the U.S. presidential candidates, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama, promised to pursue a closer, more collaborative relationship with the region. The question, now that President Obama has taken office, is whether the United States is ready, willing, and able to do so. In this chapter I urge the new U.S. president to reassess this country’s relations ...

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Chapter 3: Supporting Democracy in the Americas

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pp. 47-65

The mere fact of Barack Hussein Obama’s decisive election as the first African American president can be a pivotal turning point in a much-needed repositioning of the United States’ role as an ally of democratic reform around the world. Of course,much more than an election and soaring rhetoric are needed to complete the revamping necessary to make U.S. policies to support democracy and promote human rights more ...

Part II: Getting Down to Hard Cases

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pp. 67

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Chapter 4: Seven Steps to Improve U.S. - Colombia Relations

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pp. 69-82

The state of democratic governance and the rule of law in Colombia is decidedly uneven and remains marked by paradoxes and contradictions.Very positive trends coexist with notably negative ones, so sweeping characterizations of Colombian democracy should be greeted with skepticism. Unfortunately, however, Colombia’s highly charged political debate in recent years has discouraged ...

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Chapter 5: Human Rights and Free Trade in Colombia

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pp. 83-95

The Andean region is going through a very difficult, challenging period. The legitimacy of the democratic system is in grave danger. Neopopulism has sprung up in different forms in every country in the region (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia). Diplomatic tensions have called into question the countries’ ability to coexist peacefully. Institutions of integration, particularly ...

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Chapter 6: Haiti's Political Outlook: What the United States Should Do

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pp. 96-108

Haiti’s slow but steady climb out of its political and economic abyss was severely jeopardized in 2008 by a series of internal and external shocks. In the spring, escalating food prices prompted widespread riots as the population pushed back against a 40 percent rise in the costs of basic food commodities, which cut deeply into the standard of living in a nation where most people ...

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Chapter 7: Responding to the Challenges in Haiti

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pp. 109-118

At the beginning of April 2008, as a result of the sudden rise in food prices, Haiti was engulfed by social unrest. By the end of October the country had been ravaged by three hurricanes that left hundreds dead and the city of Gona

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Chapter 8: Cuba in Transition: The Role of External Actors

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pp. 119-135

For the first time in fifty years, Fidel Castro is not presiding over Cuba. On February 24, 2008, the National Assembly named his younger brother, Ra

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Chapter 9: Turning the Symbol Around: Returning Guantanamo Bay to Cuba

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pp. 136-144

As one of his very first steps in office, President Obama signed an executive order to close the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba within one year’s time. Shutting the infamous facility is a crucial first step toward the restoration of the moral credibility of the United States: the use of the base as an extralegal detention center has made it a symbol of disrespect for ...

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Chapter 10: Engaging Venezuela: 2009 and Beyond

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pp. 145-166

Since his election in 1998, President Hugo Ch

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Chapter 11: The United States and Bolivia: Test Case for Change

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pp. 167-182

For more than a decade, U.S. engagement in the Andean region has concentrated on security and counter-narcotics issues and favored unilateral over multilateral intervention. In recent years the rise of Hugo Ch

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Chapter 12: The Rule of Law in Mexico: Challenges for the Obama Administration

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pp. 183-199

How should the Obama administration first assess, and then respond to, the evidently worsening crisis of governance, lawlessness, and large-scale criminal violence that has been gathering momentum in Mexico throughout 2008? This is shaping up to become possibly the most urgent policy challenge Washington faces in the Western Hemisphere in 2009. Given the extent of ...

Part Three: Looking Ahead

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pp. 201

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Chapter 13: A Project for the Americas

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pp. 203-224

As Abe Lowenthal states in his contribution to this volume (chapter 1), the Western Hemisphere is unlikely to be the source of the most serious and pressing challenges facing the new administration of President Barack Obama.His team will have to cope with worldwide financial disorders, not to mention security headaches in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. For Washington ...


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pp. 225-226


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pp. 227-235

E-ISBN-13: 9780815703525
E-ISBN-10: 081570352X

Page Count: 235
Publication Year: 2009