Latin American media see a glimmer of hope in President Obama’s reelection that was largely absent during the campaign. The breadth and composition of the coalition that carried Obama to victory appears to have impressed commentators, and some believe that Obama might be freer of political constraints in a second term. In Mexico, undergoing its own presidential transition, there is expectation that continuity in Washington will facilitate a smoother transition there. The prospect that Obama will be willing, and perhaps more able, to press for additional stimulus measures to jumpstart the U.S. economy – with obvious benefit for interdependent Mexico – may also be a factor. El Tiempo in Colombia noted that “with Obama, there won’t be surprises,” and that stability is welcome during the difficult peace talks. The ALBA countries generally welcomed Obama’s reelection, and – probably reflecting a wider view – Cuban media proclaimed: “U.S. elections: the worst one did not win.” Some media, such as Brazil’s O Globo, reminded readers that the U.S. House of Representatives remains under Republican control, and that the GOP “had been kidnapped” by the Tea Party.
A quick review of regional commentary reveals interest in the fact that Latino voters, more than 70 percent of whom opted for the President, were an important part of his coalition in Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico. Despite the Obama administration’s record number of deportations and its failure to introduce comprehensive immigration reform during its first term, there is little doubt that the President’s June 2012 decision to implement provisions of the Dream Act increased enthusiasm. Challenger Mitt Romney’s tough talk on Cuba and Venezuela did not win over South Florida, suggesting that demographic change is undermining support there for hardline policies. Bolivian President Evo Morales said, “Obama needs to recognize and pay that debt to the Latinos.”
No one so far has dared to expect a major shift in emphasis toward Latin America during Obama’s second term, but reelection gives the President another opportunity to make good on his vision for “partnership” in our hemispheric “neighborhood.” Early analysis of the voting, particularly in Florida and in Latino communities, suggests that he will have the political space to live up to the expectations created by his soaring rhetoric during his first Summit of the Americas in 2009. Not only can he explore reasonable approaches to longstanding issues such as Cuba, which will improve the U.S. image throughout the region; he can reengineer Washington’s relations with Central and South America in ways that reflect the region’s own evolution and ambitions – enhancing and facilitating them, rather than fearing or even resisting change. If Latin America is ready to move into the future with a new, constructive interaction with the United States, now is the time to give it a try.