Last year we were all caught up with Venezuela's presidential campaign now it is the U.S. turn. As a result I will try to highlight how the US candidates both Democrats and Republicans will approach Latin America if they were president. Last night were the CNN/YouTube debates and we may have seen the first difference between the two leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. One of the questions proposed to the candidates was:
“Would you be willing to meet separately during the first year of your administration, with leaders of Syria, Iran, Venezuela and others to bridge the gap between our countries?”
B. Obama response:
I would. And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous.
Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.
And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them. We've been talking about Iraq -- one of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria because they're going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses.
They have been acting irresponsibly up until this point. But if we tell them that we are not going to be a permanent occupying force, we are in a position to say that they are going to have to carry some weight, in terms of stabilizing the region.
H. Clinton response:
Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.
I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. I don't want to make a situation even worse. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.
And I will purse very vigorous diplomacy.
And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.
Honestly I don't think there is much of a difference between the two candidates, but it is obvious that Clinton answered the question directly and her answer probably will set better with moderate voters than Obama's. In the end it probably won't affect Obama but it is fun to see how the candidates differ, at least in answering questions.