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Hemispheric Neglect

Obama’s Latin America policy has been a big disappointment.

8:10 AM, Jan 24, 2011 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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I believe the Venezuela-Iran alliance represents the biggest threat to regional stability since the Cold War. Even if the threat is less severe than I imagine, it certainly deserves to be mentioned in any 2,600-word overview of U.S. policy toward Latin America. Yet Valenzuela did not see fit to make even a passing comment about Iran.

Likewise, he did not utter a single word about Nicaragua’s ongoing occupation of Costa Rican territory. Back in November, around the time of the U.S. midterm elections, Nicaraguan troops involved in dredging activities along the San Juan River (which forms part of the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua) effectively invaded Calero Island, which has always been considered part of sovereign Costa Rican soil. The Organization of American States (OAS) passed a resolution insisting that Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega withdraw all armed forces from the area until a diplomatic settlement could be reached. Ortega flatly rejected it. So the OAS issued another ruling, reiterating the demands of the first one. Once again, Ortega refused to comply. His soldiers remain on the island as illegal occupiers.

The island dispute may seem trivial, but a critical principle is at stake. Nicaragua committed an act of naked aggression. Thus far, it has paid no diplomatic or economic penalty. The Obama administration’s response has been weak at best. Indeed, countering the Nicaraguan invasion is apparently such a low priority that Valenzuela chose not to mention it in his Brookings address.

All in all, the speech was a huge disappointment—just like Obama’s Latin America policy.

Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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