What Got Overshadowed in Colombia

As the Secret Service scandal continues to rage in the media (we can’t get enough of meaningless sex scandals, can we?), someone at Foreign Policy was apparently not distracted by the shiny object and actually reported something of value from the Summit of the Americas in Colombia.  Clearly he did not get the memo that anything involving a prostitute and high level government employees takes center stage over relevant information at all times.  He should have been spending his time finding a way to tie the Secret Service story to a Kardashian instead of being a real journalist.

But he didn’t and Mr. Traub penned a really good article giving a great general overview of the summit.  Lots of tidbits to chew on in his piece but two particular elements stuck out.

The first being: why do we continue to seemingly fear Cuba?  Everyone is aware of the failure of the trade embargo to dethrone the Castro brothers and some have even argued they have kept their grip on power because of the policy.  But the U.S. stills refuses to deal with Cuba whenever and wherever possible as stated by Traub:

The immediate (and yet seemingly ageless) provocation was the question of whether Cuba should be admitted to the next summit, in 2015, which the United States and Canada opposed and all 30 Latin American countries, both left-wing bastions like Ecuador and traditional U.S. allies like Colombia, favored, thus bringing the meeting to an end without a planned joint declaration.

So the U.S. still won’t invite Cuba to the summit and they are in a majority of approximately…2.  Versus 30.  Aren’t we supposed to be the world’s light for democracy?  Great way to be an example for the rest of the world on that one.  Two votes apparently beats all in a democracy regardless of the larger numbers against it.  Now if I can just get someone else to write in Gallagher for president with me in November we can Sledge-O-Matic the debt to oblivion.  Yay democracy!

The second interesting piece of info was kind of pleasantly surprising.  President Obama did something U.S. officials have maybe never done before in discussions with Latin American countries.  He listened.  Shocking, I know, and if Fox News got a hold of this info they would proceed to announce the weakness of the president along with the oncoming zombie apocalypse.  But this is actually a very positive sign (albeit seemingly meaningless as indicated by the Cuba stance.  On a side note, if this had been reported of Biden I’m pretty sure we would have all assumed he had just fallen asleep.)

At the very least, indicating a willingness to listen shows a sign of wanting to improve relations with these countries which is something the U.S. has not done in the past and is proven by the justified skepticism of the United States in Latin American populations.  The U.S. has a long and well documented track record of behaving badly in Latin America and many countries have suffered weaker economies and governments because of U.S. intervention.  This has led to worse and more dangerous conditions pertaining to the drug trade and a higher desire for Latin Americans to immigrate to the greener pastures of the U.S. looking for work and safety.

If the U.S. changes course and engages the countries to the south, it could mean greater improvement in their economies and stronger and more effective self-governance.  This in turn would help the U.S. stem the flow of some of the more dangerous drugs into its borders and improve the economy through increased trade with emerging markets in our region.  Obama has made a nice first step in this process by simply listening.  Let’s hope he will not be distracted by the media circus surrounding the Secret Service scandal and will take more important steps in engaging and working with the countries of Latin America to improve all of America, both North and South.

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