Besides the fact that the “domestic” debate yielded some of the only discussion about Latin America, one of the most interesting developments was a slight shift in Barack Obama’s position towards Colombia. During a question about free trade, Obama responded to McCain’s support for Bush’s free trade proposal with Colombia by saying,
Obama: Let me respond. Actually, I understand it pretty well. The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions.
And what I have said, because the free trade — the trade agreement itself does have labor and environmental protections, but we have to stand for human rights and we have to make sure that violence isn’t being perpetrated against workers who are just trying to organize for their rights, which is why, for example, I supported the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement which was a well-structured agreement.
This is a small but important development and likely reflects the thinking of may of us who have tried to jam the campaign up about its Bush-like approach to Latin America. Compare this statement with Obama’s previous statements about Colombia, statements like this one made just prior to the political theater surrounding the hostage rescue there,
“When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program, and update it to meet evolving challenges. We will fully support Colombia’s fight against the FARC. We’ll work with the government to end the reign of terror from right wing paramilitaries. We will support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders. And we will shine a light on any support for the FARC that comes from neighboring governments. ”
Though rhetoric hardly rises to the level merited by Uribe government, hands down the bloodiest government in the Latin America, this shift is a noteworthy one that will surely be lost in the after-debate wrap ups. Good job to all of you who’ve voiced criticism of Obama’s Latin America policy. Please do keep it up.