This El Pais piece by Antonio Caño is a must read in Spanish to understand what Obama 'might' have achieved in Port of Spain this week end. The translation below and my brief notes at the end. Hat tip reader Milonga.
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The end of the Anti [USA] American alibi
"United States has changed," said Barack Obama to the presidents of Latin America. "It has not always been easy, but it has changed. And so I think it's important to remind my fellow leaders that it's not just the United States that has to change. All of us have responsibilities to look towards the future."
The answer to these words was the book that Hugo Chavez gave the U.S. president: The Open Veins of Latin America, by Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano, a symbol for a generation marked by an America populated by dictators and guerrillas, a continent that was the scenario real or imagined, of cruel multinationals and CIA agents, young dreamers and promises of socialism and revolution, a time when friends were away and the enemy, the only enemy very was close, the United States.
This book, written in 1971, and questionable as to its impartiality and scientific value, represents an era, probably the same as the one who used it yesterday as stone throwing against Obama; the new American president represents another era altogether.
Both have been exposed in this summit. It is now for citizens to choose. That choice is possible in all countries of the region except for one. The result may yet take a little to be known. The peoples of the region, rightly, are wary of everything. But, at least, something really important comes immediately out of Port of Spain: the leaders of this continent can ill take refuge in the excuse of anti-Americanism.
That alibi, still alive in many environments, has, of course, justifications. Obama acknowledged it on Friday: "At times we sought to dictate our terms." But it will be hard to use it against the new leader of the powerful northern neighbor.
His passage through the streets of Port of Spain was by far the most welcomed by the population. His speech, the most celebrated in the chamber. His popularity overcomes barriers never broken in Latin America and converts other languages, such as that of Daniel Ortega into soporific remembrances of a distant night.
The proposal of President Obama, by contrast, is illuminating: "these debates that would have us make a false choice [...] between blame for right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents;"
The resistance from some in this American lands is understandable in accepting that hope travels in Air Force One where before traveled the heads of evil imperialist web, but that is simply what we are seeing in Port of Spain. "We must learn from history, but we can't be trapped by it." Obama suggested.
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El Pais is a center left newspaper of Spain, close tot he PSOE, at least at times. El Pais, like Liberation and later Le Monde in France, were among the first newspapers to see the truth behind the Chavez rhetoric and thus started opposing him well before more right wing papers did. In fact in France, Le Figaro is still a paper that does not seem to have made its mind about Chavez, unforgivably not only because of the evidence but because it helps Sarkozy ambiguity and opportunism on that matter. Such OpEd are now routine in El Pais, and all Spanish press who do not suffer of the language barrier to see the Venezuelan reality and who in addition have enough contacts within Venezuela to observe from ground zero.
The implication of what we saw in Port of Spain is very simple: the time of reckoning for folks like Chavez, Ortega and Castro is coming. Obama's words will make it much easier for Latin Americans to start speaking against the bullies, the way their Spanish friends have already done. Once the process starts, nobody knows how fast and far it will go.