Shifting the Balance

Shifting the Balance: Obama and the Americas

Abraham F. Lowenthal
Theodore J. Piccone
Laurence Whitehead
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 193
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  • Book Info
    Shifting the Balance
    Book Description:

    In early 2009, at the start of a new administration in Washington, the Brookings Institution Press publishedThe Obama Administration and the Americas: Agenda for Change, offering a roadmap for a fresh approach to U.S. relations with its neighbors. Now, at the midway point of that presidential administration, the editors of that insightful volume follow up withShifting the Balance: Obama and the Americas, an authoritative and critical look at what President Obama and his team have done in regard to Latin America and the Caribbean, how they have been received in the region, and what steps should be taken in the future.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0563-5
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Mauricio Cardenas

    The Obama administration has been in office nearly two years, long enough to determine its approach and priorities and to set them in motion. Although President Obama’s approval ratings remain extraordinarily high in Latin America, there are some indications that the grace period is over. First, the pillars that the U.S. administration has set as priorities in its hemispheric agenda lack concrete and visible results. This is interpreted by many as disengagement. Second, and more important, political polarization in the United States—especially in regard to migration and trade—not only does not allow the agenda to move forward, but...

  4. one The Obama Administration and the Americas
    (pp. 1-28)
    Abraham F. Lowenthal

    Barack Obama entered the U.S. presidency with a daunting agenda. At home he faced deep economic recession, a near collapse of the country’s financial institutions, rising unemployment, decaying infrastructure, a dysfunctional health insurance system, and countless other accumulated problems. Abroad he inherited two costly and unpopular wars, the continuing threat from al Qaeda, dangerous confrontations with North Korea and Iran, strained relations with Russia, multiple challenges from a rising China, the specter of implosion in Pakistan, the festering Israel-Palestine impasse, the looming dangers of climate change, pandemics, and nuclear proliferation—and much more.

    Few observers predicted, therefore, that the Obama...

  5. two Mexico and the United States: The Search for a Strategic Vision
    (pp. 29-42)
    Carlos Heredia and Andrés Rozental

    As usual, most Mexicans viewed the election of a new U.S. president in 2008 with high expectations. It did not much matter that Mexico had not figured prominently in Barack Obama’s electoral campaign, or that he had never set foot on Mexican territory. Mexicans hoped that he would abandon the kind of unilateral exercise of power practiced by the outgoing administration of George W. Bush in violation of bilateral agreements and even international law.

    Though domestically driven, three of Obama’s campaign promises were in fact highly relevant for Mexico: (1) to submit to Congress a comprehensive reform bill on immigration;...

  6. three Obama and Brazil
    (pp. 43-54)
    João Augusto de Castro Neves and Matias Spektor

    When Barack Obama met Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for the first time in March 2009, his tone was deferential. Not unlike his predecessor, Obama praised the “progressive, forward-looking leadership” qualities of his Brazilian counterpart and underlined the importance of Brazil’s increasing role in global affairs.¹ However, there was not much to the meeting beyond the flattery. Except for discussing the difficulties in expanding cooperation on biofuels, the two presidents paid almost no attention to issues in which both countries play a relevant role, such as international trade, the environment, nuclear proliferation, and the global financial architecture. Since then,...

  7. four The United States and Colombia: Recalibrating the Relationship
    (pp. 55-68)
    Michael Shifter

    The United States and Colombia have enjoyed a long and close, yet often complicated, relationship that has gone through various stages. In light of the changed political environment both in Washington and in Bogotá under the new administration inaugurated in August 2010, the time has come to rethink that relationship. Such a rethinking might begin with the current moment.

    The United States, faced with severe and competing budget pressures, is planning to wind down its decade-long anti-drug package generally known as Plan Colombia, a comprehensive program designed to reduce drug trafficking and restore security chiefly by providing military equipment and...

  8. five The Chávez Challenge for Obama: An Inconvenient Marriage or Frosty Separation
    (pp. 69-85)
    Jennifer McCoy

    Ideology, geopolitics, and domestic political dynamics in Venezuela and the United States make for a volatile relationship between the Obama and Chávez administrations. Ever since his election in 1998, President Hugo Chávez has been trying to create a new model of politics and economics, and to challenge U.S. dominance in the region and the world. Through a strategy of intense confrontation with adversaries at home and abroad, combined with new foreign alliances globally and integrationist schemes regionally, his administration seeks to redistribute power and resources both domestically and internationally. At the same time, the mutual dependence of the United States...

  9. six U.S.-Bolivian Relations: Behind the Impasse
    (pp. 86-99)
    George Gray Molina

    Bolivia is in the midst of rapid social and political change. Thirty years ago it was a predominantly rural society, based on Andean mining and the ever-present legacy of the 1952 national revolution—which had the close backing of the United States. Along with most of South America, it was at the end of a decade of repressive and reactionary military rule. Today Bolivia has a participatory, multi-ethnic, and left-leaning civilian government with a strong electoral mandate and a loosely “socialist” agenda. After waves of internal migration toward the eastern lowlands, it is also a predominantly urban country, with a...

  10. seven Obama’s Cuba Policy: The End of the “New Beginning”
    (pp. 100-113)
    Daniel P. Erikson

    When Barack Obama was elected the forty-fourth president of the United States in November 2008, his victory raised hopes in many quarters that Washington and Havana would begin at last to overcome decades of antagonism. Even Fidel Castro, the ailing eighty-two-year-old former president of Cuba, praised the new American president as “intelligent, educated and level-headed.” More broadly, a vast cross section of Cuban society—including government officials, intellectuals, cultural leaders, and dissident and civic opposition groups—appeared to welcome Obama’s election to the White House. At the same time, the Cuban government was cautious about the possibilities for change that...

  11. eight The Honduran Crisis and the Obama Administration
    (pp. 114-131)
    Kevin Casas-Zamora

    In the early hours of June 28, 2009, military personnel arrested Honduras’s president Manuel Zelaya at his home in Tegucigalpa. Clad in his pajamas, he was led at gunpoint and put on a plane bound for Costa Rica. His ousting capped months of torrid conflict between Zelaya and nearly every other political actor and institution in Honduras, ranging from the Supreme Court to the Catholic Church.

    Zelaya’s defenestration sparked a complex political battle with hemisphere-wide implications. The episode threw in the open very significant questions about the geopolitical disputes that are raging in Latin America, the roots of populist authoritarianism...

  12. nine Haiti: Life beyond Survival
    (pp. 132-144)
    Juan Gabriel Valdés

    The catastrophic earthquake of January 12, 2010, has had a devastating impact on all aspects of Haitian society: social, economic, political, and cultural. No aspect of Haitian life was unaffected. The quake will long remain a horrific calamity in the collective memory of Haitians, clearly marked by a “before” and an “after.”

    Most painful has been the loss of life, estimated to be between 230,000 and 300,000. Very few Haitian families have escaped tragedy, and those hardest hit—in the capital, Port-au-Prince, or in Léogâne and Petit Goâve—are convinced that since its very foundation Haiti has been en route...

  13. ten The Democracy Agenda in the Americas: The Case for Multilateral Action
    (pp. 145-164)
    Theodore J. Piccone

    Since the 1980s U.S. foreign policy, at least rhetorically, has emphasized democracy and human rights in its approach to Latin America. While respect for liberal democracy has improved markedly in the region, countertrends in places like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras, along with the entrenched status of the Castro regime in Cuba, keep these issues high on the U.S. agenda. The question for the Obama administration is how to pursue a pro-democracy and human rights policy without repeating the mistakes of the past. One key step would be to build coalitions and expand avenues for multilateral cooperation.

    After more than...

  14. eleven Obama and the Americas: Old Hopes, New Risks
    (pp. 165-182)
    Laurence Whitehead

    In chapter 1, Abraham Lowenthal provides a judicious overview of the hopes for change in the Americas raised by the advent of the Obama administration in January 2009, despite the complexities of internal bureaucratic politics that hedge in U.S. leadership. He gives four good reasons for keeping alive modest but positive expectations: the importance of Latin America for U.S. policymakers; the existence of a well-grounded set of understandings and agreements among most U.S. analysts, think tanks, and policy experts; an enhanced capacity to discriminate between countries and issues; and a consequent awareness of the need to avoid overreacting to specific...

  15. Contributors
    (pp. 183-184)
  16. Index
    (pp. 185-194)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 195-196)