MEXICO CITY -- There’s agreement across the region that Latin America wasn’t a priority during the first term of President Barack Obama but analysts say there are issues that might raise the profile of Latin America and the Caribbean during the president’s second term.
Among them: trade, potential political change in the region, the potent voting bloc U.S. Hispanics have become, immigration, changing U.S. attitudes toward drug policy and security.
But, in general, regional expectations for meaningful change in U.S. Latin American and Caribbean policy during Obama’s second term were muted.
The campaigns of both Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney “proved that Latin America is not a priority for the United States,’’ said Simon Pachano, a political science professor at the Latin American Faculty for Social Sciences in Ecuador. “Latin America existed when they were looking for Hispanic votes, but it wasn’t present in their foreign policy proposals.”
Anthony Bryan, a senior fellow at the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies, isn’t expecting “dramatic changes” either.
“President Obama will probably have more time to spend on foreign policy but I am not sure the Caribbean is high on the list of places that require attention,’’ he said.
There was an acknowledgment that Obama has big issues to deal with at home — job creation, tax code reforms, the deficit and bridging party divides — while hot-button international issues, such as an imploding Syria, troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, Iran’s potential nuclear weapons capability and the Chinese economy, will compete for attention .
The president should concentrate on getting the U.S. economy back on track because “that is the best thing we could do for Latin America’’ in terms of spurring trade and investment, said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas.
“From a national security perspective, it’s very obvious we have to show the world we are capable of getting our house in order if we’re going to inspire confidence in America’s continuing role in the world,’’ Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution, said Wednesday during a forum at the Washington think tank.
Obama’s reelection brought hope in Mexico that the United States would move on immigration reform and take action to halt a flow of automatic weapons that is fueling crime and violence.
Reelection news was splashed across all major newspapers in Mexico.
El Universal’s headline was “Obama wins,’’ and it added, “Latin vote decisive for his re-election.”
That heavy Latino support “opens the opportunity for immigration reform because the Latino community will demand it of him. That was the implicit deal: Obama wins partly because of the weight of the Latino vote and he must push ahead on the reform that he promised in 2008,” Genaro Lozano, a political scientist at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico told the adnpolitico.com website.
Lozano said Democrats are also more receptive to Mexican demands that U.S. gun shops stop selling the assault weapons that smugglers take across the border to arm Mexican crime organizations.