One year after the election of President Barack Obama, it's time to ask whether his ambitious campaign promises about Latin America are being fulfilled, or whether, like others before him, he has placed the region at the bottom of his foreign policy priorities.
Let's take a quick look at some of Obama's key campaign promises for the region:
Asked to rate Obama's performance with Mexico, Mexico's Ambassador to Washington Arturo Sarukhan told me, "On a scale from 1 to 10, I give him an eight."
Overall, White House officials say that the best thing Obama can do for the region is to resurrect the U.S. economy. That will get U.S. trade, foreign investments and family remittances back on track and boost the region's economies, they say.
My opinion: Obama has not made Latin America one of his top foreign policy priorities, although it's not entirely his fault. He has a lot on his plate, most importantly reversing the U.S. economic crisis that he inherited. He has not been able to put his own Latin American team in place because conservative Republicans are blocking the congressional confirmation of his nominee, Arturo Valenzuela, as head of the State Department's office of hemispheric affairs.
But Obama has succeeded in changing the U.S. image in Latin America, to the point that most polls show that he is among the most popular leaders in the region. The big question now is whether he will use that goodwill to meet his campaign promise to be "a relentless advocate for democracy" and help the poor in the region.
I still hope that he will, although -- given his foreign policy priorities -- I'm somewhat less ready to bet on it than I was a year ago.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Andres Oppenheimer is a Miami Herald syndicated columnist and a member of The Miami Herald team that won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize. He also won the 1999 Maria Moors Cabot Award, the 2001 King of Spain prize, and the 2005 Emmy Suncoast award. He is the author of Castro's Final Hour; Bordering on Chaos, on Mexico's crisis; Cronicas de heroes y bandidos, Ojos vendados, Cuentos Chinos and most recently of Saving the Americas. E-mail Andres at aoppenheimer @ herald.com Live chat with Oppenheimer every Thursday at 1 p.m. at The Miami Herald.