[lg policy] Obama releases first Spanish-language ads
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Tue Apr 24 14:23:49 UTC 2012
Breaking the Sound Barrier
By Amy Goodman
President Barack Obama's re-election campaign launched its first
Spanish-language ads this week, just after returning from the Summit
of the Americas. He spent three days in Colombia, longer than any
president in U.S. history. The trip was marred, however, by a
prostitution scandal involving the U.S. military and Secret Service.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said,
"We let the boss down, because nobody's talking about what went on in
Colombia other than this incident." Dempsey is right. It also served
as a metaphor for the U.S government's ongoing treatment of Latin
The scandal reportedly involves 11 members of the U.S. Secret Service
and five members of the U.S. Army Special Forces, who allegedly met
prostitutes at one or more bars in Cartagena and took up to 20 of the
women back to their hotel, some of whom may have been minors. This all
deserves thorough investigation, but so do the policy positions that
Obama promoted while in Cartagena.
First, the war on drugs. Obama stated at the summit, "I, personally,
and my administration's position is that legalization is not the
answer." Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug
Policy Alliance, told me that, despite Obama's predictable line, this
summit showed "the transformation of the regional and global dialogue
around drug policy… This is the first you've had a president saying
that we're willing to look at the possibility that U.S. drug policies
are doing more harm than good in some parts of the world."
He credits the growing consensus across the political spectrum in
Latin America, from key former presidents like Vicente Fox of Mexico,
who supports legalization of drugs, to current leaders like Mexico's
Felipe Calderon, who cited the rapacious demand for drugs in the U.S.
as the core of the problem.
Nadelmann went on: "You have the funny situation of Evo Morales, the
leftist leader of Bolivia, former head of the coca growers' union,
lecturing the United States about — essentially, sounding like Milton
Friedman — that 'How can you expect us to reduce the supply when there
is a demand?' So there's the beginning of a change here. I don't think
it's going to be possible to put this genie back in the bottle."
Then there is trade. Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos
also announced that the U.S.-Colombian Free Trade Agreement would take
full force May 15. Colombian and U.S. labor leaders decried the move,
since Colombia is the worst country on Earth for trade unionists.
Labor organizers are regularly murdered in Colombia, with at least 34
killed in the past year and a half. When Obama was first running for
president, he promised to oppose the Colombia FTA, "because the
violence against unions in Colombia would make a mockery of the very
labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of
agreements." That year, 54 Colombian trade unionists were killed.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the announcement "is deeply
disappointing and troubling." Republicans, on the other hand, are
offering grudging praise to Obama for pushing the FTA.
On Cuba, Obama took the globally unpopular position of defending the
U.S. embargo. Even at home, polls show that a strong majority of the
American people and businesses support an end to the embargo. The U.S.
also succeeded, once again, in banning Cuba from the summit, prompting
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to boycott the meeting this year.
Responding to overall U.S. intransigence, other Western Hemisphere
countries are organizing themselves. Greg Grandin, professor of Latin
American history at New York University, told me: "Latin Americans
themselves are creating these bodies that are excluding the United
States, that are deepening integration, political and economic
integration. This seems to be a venue in which they come together in
order to criticize Washington, quite effectively."
Grandin compared Obama's Latin America policies to those of his
predecessors: "The two main pillars of U.S. foreign policy —
increasing neoliberalism and increasing militarism around drugs —
continue. They feed off of each other and have created a crisis in
that corridor, running from Colombia through Central America to
Mexico. That's been a complete disaster, and there's no change."
It will take more than a prostitution scandal to cover that up. (c)
2012 Amy Goodman. Distributed by King Features Syndicate
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international
TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North
America. She is the author of "Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently
released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.
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