Latin America Missing from the SOTU

Beneath the President’s bully pulpit in the House of Representatives last night must be a very thick carpet under which Barack Obama managed to sweep a great number of inconvenient facts and issues in the Americas.

When it came to our Hemisphere, north and south, he told us not to worry. A single sentence sufficed to sweep every issue under the carpet: “Our ties to the Americas are deeper.”

No need to worry about the Americas, right? Wrong! For starters, we ought to ask why the Obama Administration currently has no ambassadors in five Latin American countries. The answer is not dilatory procedures in the Senate.

Why are our Latin American and Caribbean neighbors building a regional organization—the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)—which pointedly snubbed the U.S.?

Neither Canada nor Mexico—two of our top five trading partners—merited mention. Nowhere was there a reference to Obama’s recent decision to ditch the job-creating, alliance-solidifying Keystone XL pipeline from oil-rich Canada to Texas.

Looking south, one would have thought Mexico’s battle against the brutal onslaught of transnational criminal organizations—a struggle that has claimed nearly 50,000 lives, including American lives, since 2006—or the missteps in Operation Fast and Furious required mention or an explanation of U.S. policy.

The troubles in Mexico open up a fresh set of issues, including drug trafficking and drug and substance abuse in the U.S. Scant attention is paid by the Obama White House to a persistent crisis that is directly or indirectly responsible for tens of thousands of preventable deaths and countless crimes. It also imposes costs on our nation that begin to approach the entire Pentagon budget—by some estimates, close to $500 billion!

The visit of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and growing Iranian penetration in the Americas were sufficient to raise presidential eyebrows and concerns in a recent interview, but insufficient to cross the security threshold in the SOTU.

Obama spoke emphatically about the Middle East: “We will support policies that lead to strong and stable democracies and open markets, because tyranny is no match for liberty.” But in our neighborhood, it is a different song when dealing with the Castro brothers in Cuba, who celebrated the 53rd anniversary of revolutionary dictatorship on an island 90 miles from Key West and continue to repress and murder those who demand democratic change while benefitting from freer travel and generous remittances granted by the Obama Administration.

Rising Brazil did not get even a wink, even as that emerging South American giant appears poised under President Dilma Rouseff to distance itself from Iran and perhaps from China.

The list, of course, could go on.

Comments are closed.