Monday, May 26, 2008

Reality check at Obama's campaign

I remember that during the last US campaign an incensed Eva Golinger thought that Kerry had it all wrong on Chavez and that she could not vote for him (I suppose she voted Nader, wasteful as she has always been). I wonder now what she would think of Obama first major speech on Latin America.

A few weeks ago this blogger bemoaned that Obama workers had Che posters in their offices. It is also fair and honest to say at this point, when all is near over at the Democratic camp that I preferred Hillary. Not out of love, mind you, but because I thought that what you saw what was you were getting. Obama just spoke too nicely, too worried to connect with the people. After 10 years of Chavez "connecting" with the people the reader will have to forgive me if I was/am Obama weary.... Ten years of chavismo have a way to develop strong allergies to snake charmers, military uniforms and red shirts among other things.

When I first read this speech (hat tip Gene) I was not too impressed. Yes, it seemed that Obama was getting it better on Latin America though he was not proposing real solutions. Then again he would be advised not to offer anything as long as he can get away with it since concrete proposals during a campaign can have often unexpected boomerang effects. But a second appreciation of the speech showed me that at least Obama had the ability to learn and that even if some of his supporters had Che in their office walls, that would not be enough to sway him. Maybe he has more of a backbone than I thought he had, even if he is only trying very hard to make inroads into the Latin vote. And if if his heart is not into it, even if to seduce Latinos was his only objective in this speech, well, at least he is doing it the right way and I must give credit where credit is due.

I do not know what an Obama presidency will do about Chavez but at least we are fixed on one thing: even if Obama fulfills an earlier promise to meet with Chavez soon in his presidency, he has no illusion about the man:
No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum.
And he is under no illusion about the lack of real democracy in Venezuela:
And we know that freedom across our hemisphere must go beyond elections. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is a democratically elected leader. But we also know that he does not govern democratically. He talks of the people, but his actions just serve his own power. Yet the Bush Administration's blustery condemnations and clumsy attempts to undermine Chavez have only strengthened his hand.
As Miguel wrote, someone at Obama camp read our blogs, and I would add, the WSJ columns of Maria Anastasia O'Grady :) Speaking of Miguel, he went through the live speech and noticed the following sentence:
We will support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders.
Very interesting coming from someone who opposed the trade deal with Colombia. Once he is president I think that Uribe will be received at the White House way before Chavez is received. No wonder Uribe has been rather low key after the Pelosi gang stopped the vote on the trade deal: he probably knows better, that Obama and Pelosi might not be such good friends after all, that it was just campaign talk. Because if there is one major difference between Colombia diplomacy and Chavez one, is that the Colombian one does take the time to study the complexities of the US political landscape. Not for them the Manichean simplicity of the ambassadors dispatched by Chavez to Washington.

Today Chavez should be very worried: all US presidential candidates are now on solid record at considering that he is a thug. Well, they put it more nicely than me by using polite words such as' demagogue', but they know.

Finally to conclude this. When Condi Rice made it to State I thought that she would be much better than Colin Powell. But I have been very disappointed. True, Iraq and the Middle East leave her with very little time for LatAm. But what has been missing is a clear indication that Latin America was important for the US. The late modest success such as the Bush visit to Brazil and Uruguay had a certain afterthought flavor, a "we must do something" feel of urgency. Obama is justified when he mentions "clumsy attempts". I am certainly not ready yet to raise my hopes on an Obama presidency as to a better containment of Chavez, but as of now I must admit he has gained credibility. And he must have pissed Chavez a lot in his primal reverse racism. I would have loved to be the fly on the wall when Chavez read the translation of the speech (that is, if the failed bus driver turned foreign minister had the balls to show it to Chavez).

-The end-

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