Although they were promised a new era of engagement by President Bush back in 2000, many Latin American leaders are looking to the election of Barack Obama with the hope that this promise becomes a reality. As we all know, the Bush administration was unable to keep this promise to the regions leaders due to the attention and resources it has committed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President-Elect Obama has made it clear that economic concerns are at the top of his list of priorities, but many Latin American leaders are hoping that the new president will also be open to working with them to address issues of trade, security as well.
As reported by the Voice of America, many of the regions leaders extended letters of congratulations to Mr. Obama, while also sharing their concerns.
Conservative Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, one of America's leading trade partners, congratulated Mr. Obama and invited him to the country.
In Chile, President Michelle Bachelet said Mr. Obama will take office at a time when world leaders are searching for new solutions, pointing out that they share many of the same concerns, such as the need for social justice, greater equality and the hope for change in the future.
In Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe said he hoped to work closely with the Democratic president to advance shared goals. Uribe is a long-time associate of President Bush and has been working with Republican leaders to win approval for a free trade agreement. Mr. Obama had previously criticized the agreement, saying he wants to address concerns in the trade deal, such as greater protection for union leaders, before it becomes law.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales acknowledged that relations with the USA have been strained as of late, having accused President Bush of seeking to interfere with his government during the recent civil crisis Morales was facing over gas reserves. Morales said the President-Elect Obama could help bridge differences between the nations, and that he was sure relations between Washington DC and La Paz would improve. Morales also mentioned that he hoped Obama would lift the economic embargo against Cuba and remove U.S. troops from some countries.
While campaigning in Florida, Obama had promised a review of the harsh policies stance that the USA currently holds against Cuba. Specifically referencing a set of Bush administration limits on remittances and family travel to the island. Cuban Americans as well as those still living on the island have voiced support for Mr. Obama's more lenient approach.