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What Can Latin America Expect from the Next Secretary of State?

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January 11, 2013

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In an op-ed for Fox News LatinoChristopher Sabatini, Editor-in-Chief of Americas Quarterly and Senior Director of Policy at Americas Society/Council of the Americas, praises outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for focusing on gender equality and social inclusion in Latin America during her tenure, and predicts that U.S.-Latin America relations will receive less attention while the U.S.' secretary of state nominee, Senator John Kerry, focuses on foreign policy in the Middle East and China.  

After Hillary Clinton, What Can Latin America Expect from the Next Secretary of State?

By Christopher Sabatini

In her four-year term, Hillary Clinton has not only been the State Department's most traveled secretary of state in history, she's also been a frequent flier to Latin America and the Caribbean. In 22 trips to the region (including Canada), she traveled to 31countries. 

Can we expect the same level of attention from secretary of state nominee, Senator John Kerry? Not likely, though that may not be a bad thing.

By 2008, U.S. political capital in the region was badly damaged. In the first four years of President George W. Bush's administration, a number of high-level government officials made little effort to hide their preferences for specific candidates or parties in elections in Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela, violating a long-standing policy—in place since the presidency of President Bush's father—to support the process of democratic elections regardless of their outcomes. Moreover, the brief embrace of the seizure of power in Venezuela during the confusion that erupted on April 11, 2002 after troops, acting on orders from President Hugo Chávez, fired on protestors—further inflamed regional suspicions that the U.S. was up to its old habits of interventionism in the region.

While the Bush Administration course-corrected in its later years, the perception and lingering suspicion remained.

For many, inside and outside the United States, the election of President Barack Obama was an opportunity to reset the relationship. But politics in the region had changed too much. A new generation of populist presidents in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, the so-called ALBA alliance, (largely as a means to assert their own sovereignty) refused to let the old suspicions die. At the same time, concerns about their intentions, within their own countries and outside of them, remained, irrespective of the party in the White House. 

Read the rest of the article here.

 


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