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El Mundo, Spain

Obama and the American Promise

By Martín Santiváñez Vivanco

Translated By Natalia Barnhart

22 January 2013

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard

Spain - El Mundo - Original Article (Spanish)

Latinos are not immune to Barack Obama’s powerful charisma. The historic Republican loss in the last election (71 percent to 27 percent among the demographic) only makes sense when you consider two variables. First, the outrageous radicalization of the immigration discussion, which is indefensibly and offensively extremist. Second, a subtle attraction to Obama’s Voluntaryism, a discourse based on the establishment of a social safety net that fits perfectly with the old Latin political culture indebted to state assistance.

Latin America has not been a priority for Washington for the last several presidencies. Not even Chavismo in all its glory managed to arouse much interest from the White House. They opted instead for appeasement and damage control. However, as time passes, Obamaism is consolidating its status as a “continental cause.” As a matter of fact, the likely legalization of 11 million undocumented immigrants (unless Republican blindness triumphs) will be enough for President Obama to reaffirm his high level of popularity in Latin America. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that his administration will revive the ideological disagreement with Cuba or that it will decisively confront the Bolivian Caesarism trampling Latin democracy. With respect to the region, its foreign policy will continue to be just like the president’s words: beautiful characters written in lovely diction, but with limited effectiveness in the real world.

The discourse in the United States is essentially different from that in Latin America. On the one hand we have the formidable, driving myth of manifest destiny (“A city upon a hill”) which underlies the United States’ primacy around the world. On the other, there is the recurring desire for utopia, the great American promise, which has influenced the character of the Americas since before Bolivar and San Martin. That unfinished dream has little to do with our northern brother’s hegemony. So, despite Obama’s victory and his rhetorical promises ("We will support democracy from the Americas to the Middle East”), Latinos must remember that those who dream of Latino integration have in Obama a supporter, a sympathetic audience. But not a champion.



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