Latin America looks to more engaged Obama

Nov. 7, 2012 at 5:37 PM
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BRASILIA, Brazil, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- Latin American leaders and the media want re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama to engage more constructively with the continent on both political and economic fronts.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used a public address at a conference in Brasilia Wednesday to extend her wishes to the U.S. leader.

"I seize this opportunity to congratulate the people of the United States and President Obama" on his re-election, Rousseff told hundreds of representatives of governments, social movements, civil society and business from more than 130 countries gathered in Brasilia for a conference on combating corruption.

Rousseff's government has been rocked by a series of explosive corruption scandals after she launched an open war on financial malfeasance.

Most of the corruption cases date to the period under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva but several of the embarrassing revelations, leading to ministerial resignations, were triggered by investigative journalists after Rousseff announced her anti-corruption campaign and support for greater government transparency.

Rousseff has indicated interest in building closer relations with the United States but wants equal partnerships, freer technology transfers and less intervention from the U.S. Congress, in particular on defense contracts.

Latin America media played up the Latino voter support to Obama and analysts indicated the Latino backing put Obama under obligation to Hispanic Americans and also opened up new opportunities for the U.S. president to rebuild bridges with Latin America.

U.S. ties with Latin America suffered during several decades of preoccupation with the Middle East but when Obama visited the region last year he declared interest in restoring an active U.S. role in the region.

The Latin American governments' response has been to reiterate support for easing the U.S. embargo on Cuba, the longest in history.

Several Latin American presidents tried in vain this year to include Cuba in international meetings attended by U.S. delegations. Calls for easing sanctions on Cuba have come from Pope Benedict XVI and U.S. ally and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Venezuelan reaction to Obama's re-election, despite being characteristically arch, signaled a softening of the fiery rhetoric of President Hugo Chavez, himself re-elected in October to a new six-year term.

Venezuela and the United States have quarreled on the U.S. choice of ambassador in Caracas, the two countries differ on key foreign policy issues, including Iran, but the United States remains the top buyer of Venezuelan oil.

Chavez said during the U.S. election campaign that if he were an American, he'd cast his ballot for Obama over Republican Mitt Romney, adding he was confident that Obama would vote for him, too.

There was widespread praise for Obama in Mexico, in political transition while awaiting the December inauguration of President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto. Mexicans are anxious that security collaboration between the two countries should continue at the same level as under former President Felipe Calderon.

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