While the Democratic platform calls for greater freedom in Cuba and Venezuela, it provides few details.
U.S. fears about Venezuela and Cuba arent necessarily shared in the region. The United States staunchest ally in Latin America, Colombia, has publically praised both nations for shepherding peace talks with the FARC. And Cuba has been welcomed into multilateral bodies, such as the Alba and CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
Both parties platforms highlight the need to fight drug cartels abroad, but dont mention U.S. consumption. And they dont address growing accusations in Latin America that Washingtons drug war has failed and is driving record violence in the region.
The United States should be providing an energetic and proactive answer to those complaints, said Bruce Bagley, a professor of international relations at the University of Miami.
But tackling the issue would mean taking on the powerful gun lobby and broaching the subject of treatment programs, or even legalization both political kryptonite during an election year, wrote Ted Piccone, a senior fellow and deputy director at Brookings.
Latin America is torn by violent crime, drug trafficking, and guns, he wrote in Foreign Policy. The United States is a responsible party on all these issues. We buy the cocaine, methamphetamines, and marijuana that flow across our borders, and we sell the weapons that fuel the traffickers gruesome attacks.
The one issue both sides agree on is the need for more trade with Latin America to pull the United States out of its economic doldrums. The Obama administration can take credit for passing free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama last year, and has been pushing U.S. exports to the region.
But Romney says Obama should have done even more.
The opportunities for us in Latin America we have just not taken advantage of fully, Romney said during Mondays debate. As a matter of fact, Latin Americas economy is almost as big as the economy of China. Were all focused on China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us.
Colombian Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas praised Romney for repeatedly pointing out the potential of North-South trade. But he also thanked the Obama administration for its support in Colombias bid to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD.
The hemispheres powerhouse Brazil the worlds eighth-largest economy, just ahead of the United Kingdom was never mentioned in Mondays debate and isnt mentioned at all in the GOP platform. The DNC platform praises the countrys vibrant democracy and concedes its growing importance, but offers few details about engagement.
In many ways, the fact that Washington isnt focused on Latin America is a sign that the region has progressed, said Bagley. Its no longer considered the war-torn narco-haven of the 1980s that threatened the hemisphere.
From the point of view in Washington, the world is a dangerous place, he said, but Latin America isnt.
But the spotlight is likely to return once the race is over, said Susan Purcell, the director for UMs Center of Hemispheric Policy.
Everybody says theyre going to focus on domestic issues but they cant withdraw from the world, she said. Either Obama or Romney are going to be spending a lot of time on foreign policy.