SAN SALVADOR — In a reaction to Latin American criticism of the UN-sanctioned military action in Libya, President Barack Obama said recently he was not disappointed with the reaction and stressed that there was “strong international support” for enforcement of the no-fly zone.
In an interview with The Miami Herald, in which he talked at length about US relations with key countries in the region, Obama said that the allied military action has “saved lives” and that it has caused “few, if any, civilian casualties.”
Asked whether he was frustrated that Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay have reacted with various degrees of criticism to the military action, Obama said that “politics internationally are always complicated.
You have a lot of countries that have a lot of interests.”
But he added that “you have to keep in mind that we are initiating this under UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973. This is not my judgment, this is the international community’s judgment that when a leader turns his own army against his own people, and threatens to unleash them on a city and shows no mercy, then the international community has to act.”
Referring to the strident criticism by Venezuela and its closest allies, he said that “there will always be the very few usual suspects who are going to be very critical of what the United States or Western countries do, no matter what. But here you have a situation where you had not only the Security Council calling for intervention, but the Arab League calling for intervention, you have the Gulf Council calling for intervention.”
Colombia, Chile and Peru have supported the mission.
During the interview, Obama expressed hopes that the pending free trade deals with Colombia and Panama will pass the US Congress, but refused to say whether it will happen this year.
He also expressed concern about a recent incident in which Argentina seized part of the cargo of a US military plane that was carrying supplies for a joint military exercise, and said he follows events in Cuba and Venezuela closely, including Venezuela’s alleged aid to Iran’s nuclear programme.
On a lighter note, while talking about US ties with Latin America, Obama disclosed that his two daughters have chosen to take “fairly intensive Spanish” at Sidwell Friends, the Washington, DC, school they attend, and said he regretted not having followed up himself on the Spanish classes he took in school.
Obama said his 12-year-old daughter, Malia, told him, regretfully, during their stop in Santiago, Chile, “You know, Daddy, when we go to a country, everybody speaks English. But we don’t speak their language.”
He added, “Absolutely. I told her, the biggest regret I have is that I was too lazy in Spanish. I took Spanish, but I didn’t apply myself, and as a consequence, I can understand a bit, and my pronunciation is pretty good when reading from a script, but I am not able to communicate effectively in that language.”
It’s going to be “important for Americans” to speak Spanish at a time when Latin America is increasingly important on the global economic and diplomatic stage, he said.
© The Miami Herald, 2011. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Media Services.