Obama victory a relief for Latin American left

Associated Press Modified: November 7, 2012 at 7:02 pm •  Published: November 7, 2012
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If Romney had won, it "would no doubt have produced a more bellicose rhetoric, and perhaps more aggressive actions towards Cuba, Venezuela and other left governments," said Miguel Tinker Salas, a Latin American studies professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California.

Tinker Salas and other analysts say Obama's administration hasn't deviated much in the approach toward Latin America that was taken by former President George W. Bush.

Beyond counter-drug efforts in the region, "the U.S. faces real challenges to its role in Latin America. It faces opposition to its efforts to increase economic ties with sympathetic governments and to out maneuver Chinese efforts to gain a stronger foothold in the region," Tinker Salas said.

The U.S. remains the top trading partner of many countries in the region, with exceptions including Brazil and Chile, where China has recently taken its place.

During the presidential debates, Romney had called Latin America a "huge opportunity" for the U.S. economically. The region, however, was far from a hot topic in the election and seldom garnered mentions by the candidates — although one pro-Romney television ad in Florida had played up Chavez's pro-Obama comments.

Ahead of the vote, some commentators in Latin America had groused that Obama and Romney were so similar in foreign policy stances that the result didn't matter much. A recent front-page cartoon in Argentina's Pagina12 newspaper summed up such complaints, showing a conversation between two bearded men. One remarked: "What difference is there between Republicans and Democrats?" The other answered: "Both bomb you, but the Democrats afterward feel just a little bit bad about it."

President Evo Morales of Bolivia, whose relations with the United States have been testy since he expelled the U.S. ambassador and U.S. drug agents in 2008, noted that Latino voters were a key force in helping Obama win.

"Obama needs to recognize and pay that debt to the Latinos," Morales said.

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Associated Press writers Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana, Michael Warren in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Jorge Rueda in Caracas; and Carlos Valdez in La Paz, Bolivia, contributed to this report.

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