On 6 November 2012, a new president will be elected in the United States. The voters will decide whether President Barack Obama gets a second term or whether his contender Mitt Romney will succeed him in the White House.
The so-called Latino vote might be decisive in winning the election. While both candidates are courting Hispanic voters, the majority of these voters will choose Obama. Already in the 2008 election, Latino voters helped Obama to win key states. However, the strong Latino support for Obama in the previous election did not result in a special interest in Latin America on the part of the Obama administration. It was not until 2012 that Obama cautiously took up the immigration/legalization issue, which is important to both Latin Americans and Hispanics.
Obama started with great hope and much goodwill in Latin America. Nevertheless, the balance of his Latin America policy is somewhat disappointing – although one has to mention that Congress has finally ratified the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.
US–Latin America relations are routinely managed by multiple bureaucratic agencies, which can act quite autonomously and are often not coordinated via a common strategy. Obama’s Latin America policy has frequently been hampered by political polarization and partisan divisions in Congress.
The intermestic dimension of US–Latin American relations has complicated foreign policy, because a more self-confident and autonomous majority in Latin America has sometimes sought a policy shift with regard to highly sensitive topics, such as drugs, immigration and Cuba.
One issue area where some would criticize the Obama administration is its slowness in improving relations with Brazil or placing Brazil on par with, for example, India.
It is unlikely that Latin America’s modest ranking in US foreign policy will increase or that Washington’s priorities will shift much after the November 2012 elections.
The Obama Administration and Latin America: A Disappointing First Term, GIGA Focus International Edition English, 06, urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-320548(2012),
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General Editor GIGA Focus Series: Prof. Dr. Sabine Kurtenbach
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