Not a smart move

Bogota, Colombia— The US State Department wasn’t terribly smart when it rejected a demand by Latin American populist leaders that Cuba be invited to an April 14 summit of President Barack Obama with 33 hemispheric leaders in Colombia.

Obama shouldn’t ignore the war next door

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama talked about the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, but didn’t say a word about a war that is taking place next door, and that is killing more people than the others: the drug-related war in Mexico and Central America.

2012 will be anything but boring in the Americas

Every year brings about changes, but 2012 is likely to be an especially eventful one in the Americas: there will be elections in the United States, Mexico and Venezuela, as well as other news events that could change the political map in the region.

New Latin American group will have no teeth

Contrary to what most headlines suggested, and to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s claim that it’s the most important thing to have happened in Latin America in the past 100 years, the new group of 33 Latin American and Caribbean states created at a Dec 3 summit in Venezuela will hardly make it into history books.

Latin America is beating poverty – sort of

In sharp contrast to the gloom surrounding US and European economic news, a new United Nations report has good news for Latin America; it says that poverty levels in the region have dropped to their lowest levels in 20 years, and will continue falling in 2012.

Never-ending drug war moves to Central America

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — While Mexico’s bloody war against the drug cartels is making headlines worldwide, there is a little-known fact that is sounding alarm bells among US and Latin American officials: Central America’s drug-related violence is far worse than Mexico’s.

OAS makes bad ‘error‘ in Nicaragua

What was most surprising about Nicaragua’s election last Sunday was not that President Daniel Ortega was re-elected after a highly questionable electoral process, but that his victory got a seemingly unconditional blessing from 34-country Organization of American States chief Jose Miguel Insulza.

Rice’s book shows ‘inattention’ to Latin America

If political biographies of recent US presidents and top foreign policy officials are any indication of what goes on in their mind — and I think they are — the new book by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks for itself: it’s about 98 per cent about the Middle East, Russia and Asia, and 2 per cent about Latin America.

UN chief half right on rights council

When I interviewed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently, I was curious to hear what he would say about US congressional criticism that the United Nations has become hijacked by totalitarian regimes.

Colombia, Panama trade deals with U.S. just a chance

Colombia, Panama and South Korea are celebrating the long-delayed U.S. congressional approval of their free trade agreements with Washington, which Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called “the most important treaty in our history.” But — at least for the two Latin American countries — the hard part is just starting now.

U.S. could learn from Mexico’s coalition debate

A group of 46 high-profile Mexican politicians and academics from across the ideological spectrum shook this country earlier this week with a daring proposal to end Mexico’s political gridlock: forcing whomever is elected president in 2012 to form a coalition government.

Israel’s truths, and omissions, on vote for Palestine state

Now that most Latin American and Caribbean countries have announced that they will join Islamic nations in voting for the creation of a Palestine state along the 1967 borders at the United Nations General Assembly later this month, the proposed motion is almost certain to pass by a comfortable majority of at least 120 votes.

Latin America not immune to US debt deal

While much has been written about the fact that Latin America’s rapidly growing economies are largely immune to US financial woes, President Obama’s deal with Congress to avoid a US debt default will have a negative impact throughout the region.

OAS is a basket case – but a needed one

The 34-country Organization of American States is better known for its cocktail parties than for its contributions to mankind, but congressional Republicans may have been drunk the week before last when they voted to end all US funding to the regional institution.

South Korea’s school tablets — a test for all

South Korea’s announcement that it will ban all school paper textbooks and replace them with electronic tablets by 2014 should ring alarm bells in the United States, Europe and Latin America — many of our children run the risk of being left even farther behind their digital-savvy Asian counterparts.

Three Venezuelan scenarios – none of them good

Now that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has publicly conceded that he has cancer — after his regime had accused independent media of being “agents of imperialism” for speculating that his prolonged stay in Cuba was due to a serious illness — here are three scenarios of what may happen in Venezuela.

Chávez should get credit for economic miracle

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s critics have taken advantage of his three-week absence for treatment of what was at first an undisclosed illness in Cuba to blame him for all kinds of misdeeds, but it’s time to give him credit for having performed a true economic miracle in his country.

Plan to expel illegal immigrants will backfire

Republicans in Congress have launched a major offensive to force several million undocumented immigrants to leave the United States with a bill that would make it mandatory for US employers to electronically verify workers’ legal status.

Obama’s biggest challenge – Central America

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — The country that will receive the most attention during President Barack Obama’s ongoing visit to Latin America — other than Libya — will be Brazil, but the place where he will probably have the biggest, and most needed, impact will be Central America.

Egypt, Tunisia could learn from Chile’s transition

Latin View

WASHINGTON — Here is an interesting idea that is drawing attention in US foreign policy circles — help Egypt, Tunisia and other countries in the Arab world learn some valuable lessons from Latin America’s most successful transitions to democracy.

US should cut waste in immigration budget

Latin View

As the Obama administration and Congress battle on how to reduce the $1.6 trillion US budget deficit, here’s a politically incorrect idea that could save billions of dollars — cut the waste in the government’s spending on immigration enforcement.

South American stock exchange: the way to go

Latin View

The merger of the New York and Frankfurt stock exchanges to create the world’s biggest stock market made big headlines last week, but there is a lesser-known process in South America that should also draw our attention – the union of the Chilean, Peruvian and Colombian stock exchanges.

US aid cuts could be ‘diplomatic suicide’

On the occasion of the recent anniversary of the earthquake that shook Haiti last year, killing about 300,000 people and destroying thousands of schools and hospitals, I read a statistic that blew my mind – Venezuela has pledged more funds for Haiti’s reconstruction than the United States.

Obama’s trip may lead to US-Brazil honeymoon

Latin View

President Barack Obama’s announcement that he will visit Brazil, Chile and El Salvador in March – in what will be his first trip to South America – could result in an improvement in Brazil-US ties following a significant downturn over the past two years.

WikiLeaks may end up helping America

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have spoken too fast when she denounced the release of about 250,000 confidential diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks as “an attack on America.” In the short run, the disclosures will hurt US diplomacy, but in the long run they may help restore the US image abroad.