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Maria Elena Salinas: Obama Must Look to the South

El Diario/La Prensa , news report Hugo Chvez , Posted: Nov 18, 2008

One of the strongest arguments made by John McCain's campaign to Hispanic voters was that Barack Obama "had never even crossed the southern border," writes Univision anchor Maria Elena Salinas in her syndicated column. But, she adds, this is about to change. A source inside the president-elect's campaign told Salinas that Obama will have to sit down with President Felipe Caldern to discuss how to improve the economy on both sides of the border.

Latin American leaders have lauded Obama's victory, even in countries where relations with the United States have been strained. The Bolivia and Brazil governments have asked the president-elect to lift the embargo against Cuba. Venezuelan president Hugo Chvez has said that "it is time to establish new relations between our countries and our region, based on the principles of respect for sovereignty, equality and true partnership." According to pollster Eduardo Gamarra of Newlink Group, however, some leftists in Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela are skeptical of Obama, believing that although "he is black, he is still a Gringo."

The big unknown, Salinas writes, is what will happen with Colombia. Obama has remained opposed to a free trade agreement with the country, and some wonder if President lvaro Uribe made a mistake in aligning himself so closely with the McCain campaign. But Francisco Noguera Rocha, Colombia's Consul General en New York, remains optimistic: It was vice-president elect Joe Biden who presented "Plan Colombia" before the Senate during the Clinton administration. According to Colombia's Consul General, Latin American intellectuals don't think that Obama is as liberal as he has been portrayed and believe that living in the United States will oblige him to govern from the center.

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