Sunday, November 4, 2012

Obama, Romney and Colombia

U.S. Pres. and Democratic Party
candidate Barack Obama.

Which of the candidates to be president of the United States would be better for Colombia?

Historically, Colombians have usually hoped for Republican presidents in the White House, based on the belief that they'd provide more aid. In fact, in 2008 Colombia was one of the few nations where a majority of the people supported John McCain over Barack Obama.

Analysts interviewed by El Tiempo in today's paper generally agree that Obama's better for Colombia this time, mainly because of the government's incipient peace negotiations with the FARC guerrillas. That's in part because of the participation of the socialist states of Cuba and Venezuela in the negotiations. The Republicans have opposed many contacts with those countries' governments (except, of course, for buying lots of Venezuelan oil and selling it anything and everything it wants), so a Romney victory might cool the U.S.'s backing for the peace negotiations, which are to be held in Havana. This would be particularly true if a Romney administration, like Bush II, appointed anti-Castro Cuban emigres to high positions.

Republican Party presidential
candidates Mitt Romney.
On the other hand, Romney has promised to increase U.S. defense spending, which could translate to more military aid to Colombia. If the FARC believe that, it could serve as a stick telling the guerrillas to make concessions - or else. But it's questionable to what degree Romney would follow thru with these military increases, as with so many of his promises, in a time of budget austerity and when U.S. citizens are weary from two less-than-succesful overseas conflicts. And that's particularly true for Colombia, which has gotten almost no attention and is already considered a success story.

Another likely difference in a Romney administration would be its approach to the War on Drugs. While this hasn't been much of an issue during the campaign, it's safe to say that Republicans support prohibitionism, aggressive drug crop erradication and interdiction, while Democrats put more emphasis on treatment and less on imprisonment. Obama, who reportedly tried illegal drugs in his youth, has been disappointingly timid in many of his policies. But I harbor hopes that in a second term, when reelection is no longer an option, he'd be more daring. A recovering economy, too, would give him more manuevering room. So, perhaps, some degree of drug depenalization, as Pres. Santos has suggested, could become an option. As any reader of this blog knows, I believe that depenalization is worth trying, because it would take profits away from the violent groups which have done so much harm to Colombia and much of the rest of Latin America.

Romney has also said he'd open up more trade with Latin America. But it's difficult to see how he'd do this, since the Obama administration has already signed several free trade agreements, including one with Colombia. But Romney, a wealthy businessman who clearly favors big business interests, would likely pay less attention to human rights and environmental concerns.

Finally, there are also general issues which don't directly affect Colombia or Latin America, but for which the U.S. wields great influence. In protection of the environment, action against global warming and policies favoring the middle class, Obama is likely to do much better than Romney, it seems to me, and such policies in the U.S. will spread benefits to Latin America and the world.

And there's one more thing: Obama seems to be much more popular than Romney in Colombia and most of the rest of the world. That means something too, for relations with the world's superpower.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

Miguel, lets hope that Obama wins, not that his victory would really changed things in Colombia, but is going to be far better than to have an asshole like Romney in the White House. Anyway, tomorrow the level of intelligence of the average American is going to be measured again...
I hope that Obama wins again.

Mauricio Forero.

Miguel said...

Yes, let's hope. Right now, I feel hopeful. Unfortunately, my ballot got lost in the mail, so I can't vote, which leaves me frustrated (the voting information, which I could have just downloaded, did arrive).

It seems to me that Romney is a nice guy, altho smug and self-satisfied. It's his values I don't like. Mike