April 16th, 2009
11:20 AM ET
6 years ago

Obama to Latin America: Time for a 'new direction'

President Obama says in a new op-ed running in several newspapers that it's time for the U.S. to pursue greater relations with 'our neighbors.'
President Obama says in a new op-ed running in several newspapers that it's time for the U.S. to pursue greater relations with 'our neighbors.'

(CNN) – In an op-ed running in several newspapers throughout Latin America, President Obama said it's time for the United States to "move in a new direction" regarding policies affecting the Americas.

"Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas," Obama wrote. "My Administration is committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain a broader partnership between the United States and the hemisphere on behalf of our common prosperity and our common security."

The op-ed - in English, Portugese and Spanish - ran in the following newspapers: Trinidad Express (Trinidad & Tobago), St. Petersburg Times, Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

It also ran in Grupo De Diarios America (GDA) affiliate newspapers across the world, such as La Nacin (Argentina), O Globo (Brazil), La Nacin (Costa Rica) and El Universal (Mexico).

Obama, who is in Mexico Thursday, heads to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago this week, where issues affecting Latin American-U.S. relations will be on the table - as well as broader themes of parternship and leadership.

"This Summit offers the opportunity of a new beginning. Advancing prosperity, security and liberty for the people of the Americas depends upon 21st century partnerships, freed from the posturing of the past. That is the leadership and partnership that the United States stands ready to provide," he wrote.

Full text of the op-ed from The White House:

Choosing a Better Future in the Americas
President Barack Obama

"As we approach the Summit of the Americas, our hemisphere is faced with a clear choice. We can overcome our shared challenges with a sense of common purpose, or we can stay mired in the old debates of the past. For the sake of all our people, we must choose the future.

Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas. My Administration is committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain a broader partnership between the United States and the hemisphere on behalf of our common prosperity and our common security.

In advance of the Summit, we have begun to move in a new direction. This week, we amended a Cuba policy that has failed for decades to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people. In particular, the refusal to allow Cuban Americans to visit or provide resources to their families on the island made no sense – particularly after years of economic hardship in Cuba, and the devastating hurricanes that took place last year. Now, that policy has changed.

The U.S.-Cuba relationship is one example of a debate in the Americas that is too often dragged back to the 20th century. To confront our economic crisis, we don't need a debate about whether to have a rigid, state-run economy or unbridled and unregulated capitalism – we need pragmatic and responsible action that advances our common prosperity. To combat lawlessness and violence, we don't need a debate about whether to blame right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents – we need practical cooperation to expand our common security.

We must choose the future over the past, because we know that the future holds enormous opportunities if we work together. That is why leaders from Santiago to Brasilia to Mexico City are focused on a renewed partnership of the Americas that makes progress on fundamental issues like economic recovery, energy, and security.

There is no time to lose. The global economic crisis has hit the Americas hard, particularly our most vulnerable populations. Years of progress in combating poverty and inequality hangs in the balance. The United States is working to advance prosperity in the hemisphere by jumpstarting our own recovery. In doing so, we will help spur trade, investment, remittances, and tourism that provides a broader base for prosperity in the hemisphere.

We also need collective action. At the recent G-20 Summit, the United States pledged to seek nearly half a billion dollars in immediate assistance for vulnerable populations, while working with our G-20 partners to set aside substantial resources to help countries through difficult times. We have called upon the Inter-American Development Bank to maximize lending to restart the flow of credit, and stand ready to examine the needs and capacity of the IDB going forward. And we are working to put in place tough, clear 21st century rules of the road to prevent the abuses that caused the current crisis.

While we confront this crisis, we must build a new foundation for long-term prosperity. One area that holds out enormous promise is energy. Our hemisphere has bountiful natural resources that could make renewable energy plentiful and sustainable, while creating jobs for our people. In the process, we can confront climate change that threatens rising sea levels in the Caribbean, diminishing glaciers in the Andes, and powerful storms on the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Together, we have both the responsibility to act, and the opportunity to leave behind a legacy of greater prosperity and security. That is why I look forward to pursuing a new Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that will help us learn from one another, share technologies, leverage investment, and maximize our comparative advantage.
Just as we advance our common prosperity, we must advance our common security. Too many in our hemisphere are forced to live in fear. That is why the United States will strongly support respect for the rule of law, better law enforcement, and stronger judicial institutions.

Security for our citizens must be advanced through our commitment to partner with those who are courageously battling drug cartels, gangs and other criminal networks throughout the Americas. Our efforts start at home. By reducing demand for drugs and curtailing the illegal flow of weapons and bulk cash south across our border, we can advance security in the United States and beyond. And going forward, we will sustain a lasting dialogue in the hemisphere to ensure that we are building on best practices, adapting to new threats, and coordinating our efforts.

Finally, the Summit gives every democratically-elected leader in the Americas the opportunity to reaffirm our shared values. Each of our countries has pursued its own democratic journey, but we must be joined together in our commitment to liberty, equality, and human rights. That is why I look forward to the day when every country in the hemisphere can take its seat at the table consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter. And just as the United States seeks that goal in reaching out to the Cuban people, we expect all of our friends in the hemisphere to join together in supporting liberty, equality, and human rights for all Cubans.

This Summit offers the opportunity of a new beginning. Advancing prosperity, security and liberty for the people of the Americas depends upon 21st century partnerships, freed from the posturing of the past. That is the leadership and partnership that the United States stands ready to provide."


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    I love our President's leadership.

    April 16, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. strong

    Mr. Obama says: Time for a new direction.

    Now, if that isn't a worn-out cliche, I don't know what is. This is yet just another speech of Barack's, more rhetoric, more salesmanship. No substance. WHAT has he accomplished since Jan 20th? Just speech after exhausting speech.

    April 16, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  3. Lemmy - Jamesburg, New Jersey

    Obama is showing more and more how spineless he is. Yes America does not hold our end of the deal often. Yes we are arrogant but Obama seems to be blaming all of the problems of the world on the US. He has done nothing but disappoint me and I see no signs of real leadership.

    April 16, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  4. independent liberal

    if you really want to be a help to the region, Mr. President, then put an end to the war on cannabis. you are just making things worse by ignoring the American stoners. if the President keeps up his stubborn support of prohibition, then i cannot ,in good faith ,keep supporting him.

    April 16, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  5. David S.

    Obama cares more about his personal opinion polls in foreign countries than his impacts to us in his own country. Just proves he believes he is the leader of the world.

    April 16, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. gt

    the bar keeps lowering every time obama opens his mouth ,,,

    April 16, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  7. Fair is Fair

    Okay, Mr. President, put our money where your mouth is. If they're on "equal footing" with us, then cease all foreign aid to Latin America. Otherwise, your apologetic rhetoric is continuing to make you and our country look weak.

    April 16, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  8. dd

    Why is he running around the world when he should be staying here trying to fix our economy?????? He puts all these "stimulus plans" in place then takes off. Who's president is he anyway? He is acting like he is president of the world. He needs to stay home and take care of business here first. After the USA is running smoothly, then if he want to go trappsing around the world, so be it. For now, we need him in this country, working for this country.

    April 16, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |