Obama Better than Bush, Even Without Speaking Español

George W. Bush had it all to triumph in his Latin America policies. Raised in Texas, he liked cowboy boots so much that he was photographed with the Mexican president comparing whose boots were more artistic. Confident in his Spanish that he had perhaps learned through his sister-in-law, Columba, he dared to go to Vicente Fox’s ranch in San Cristobal to speak about immigration. After all, as the press said, they were “two amigos.”

Ironically, however, it might be Barack Obama, son of a Kenyan and white woman from Kansas, born in Hawaii and educated in Indonesia, who ends up as the president who reconciled the country with its neighbors below the Rio Grande.

It can be sensed that Obama has resolved to use diplomacy during the end of his term. It is for this reason that we see the agreement with a nuclear Iran and the rush to normalize relations with Cuba. But if the negotiations with the ayatollahs carry risks, what has already been accomplished in La Habana only brings applause. The thing is, while Iran continues to be a threat to Washington’s plans for the Middle East, Cuba is no longer Moscow’s pawn in America’s backyard, much less a supplier of troops that helped the Soviet blockade and, similarly, to establish itself in Africa.

Fifteen months went by between Raul Castro’s handshake at Nelson Mandela’s funeral and the current Summit of the Americas. And if the handshake in South Africa was unexpected and led to dreaming, that of Panama was predictable. Will it take Obama long to remove Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism? Six decades of turned backs, a duel that started with Dwight Eisenhower and Fidel Castro, it’s natural for it to be especially desirable to go beyond the stage of rhetoric.

In contrast to other parts of the world — like in Iraq, invaded by Bush — U.S. popularity remains strong in Latin America, according to the Pew Institute, with more than 60 percent of opinions being positive in several countries, including Venezuela.

For that matter, Obama is able to unite normalizing relations with Cuba with a loss in the attractiveness of the Bolivarian revolution, which has become less and less of a model due to Hugo Chavez’s death and the low oil prices. It also related to Colombia’s current presence in the spotlight, always a sure ally. Obama is also benefiting from Dilma Rousseff’s weaknesses, which are stopping Brazilian ambitions of establishing themselves as another giant in the Americas.

In this way, adding foreign policy success to the decision to normalize the situation of 5 million immigrants, Obama, even without being able to speak Spanish, can bequeath to the Democratic candidate (Hillary Clinton?) some 80 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2016 elections, more than his 71 percent in 2012 — even if Jeb Bush is on the other side, the husband of Senorita Columba.

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