Obama Administration Ushers in a New Day for the Americas

Some highly respected observers in Jamaica were dubious about the likely effects of the American regime change that occurred last November. Professor Stephen Vasciannie, principal of the Norman Manley Law School, was one of those who expressed such doubts.

“U.S.-Caribbean relations are not the immediate focus of Mr. Obama,” he said in a Radio Jamaica interview.

Former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga also expressed doubts that an Obama Presidency would be beneficial to the Caribbean. “I don’t know that there is that much commitment to this region any more from Washington by either party,” he told the Sunday Gleaner. “The Cold War is over, so the political interest that was there has waned.”

It looks as if such comments may have been overly pessimistic.

joeNext month, President Obama will travel to Trinidad and Tobago to meet political leaders from across the Western Hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas. In advance of that historic meeting, Vice President Joe Biden (photo at left) is going to consult with Latin American leaders gathered in Chile and Costa Rica.

In an op-ed piece published today by several major Latin American newspapers, Biden called these meetings “an important first step toward a new day in relations and building partnerships with and among the countries and people of the Hemisphere.”

The Vice President acknowledged that “only by working together can our countries overcome the challenges we face.”

What a concept!

For generations U.S. political leaders (with the notable exception of Adlai Stevenson, who was rejected by American voters in favor of Eisenhower) have viewed their Latin American and Caribbean neighbors as territories to be exploited by looters like United Fruit Company (now Chiquita Banana) or as a potential threat to freedom and democracy in the Hemisphere. American governments and corporations have relentlessly pursued policies of subversion and repression throughout the Americas. Predictably, the result has been widening resentment pf the United States and the global corporations supported by successive U.S. governments. It was this resentment that paved the way for Castro in Cuba, Chavez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia.

Now the bullying tactics of past American regimes are apparently being replaced by an attitude of cooperation. In his op-ed article, Biden called for “a shared solution to a common problem.”

Signaling a new-found American sensitivity to America’s neighbors, Biden wrote:

Democracy is about more than elections; it’s about strong, transparent governance and a thriving civil society. It is also about addressing as effectively as possible the challenges of poverty, inequality and social exclusion.

It is going to take a skeptical world some time to get used to an American administration that seeks to partner with other countries for mutual benefit rather than to promote the interests of global corporations through intimidation and subversion. But I think the world should prepare to deal with an Obama Age of Reason as a welcome change from the Bush doctrine of bellicosity.