Thursday, November 6, 2008

Barack Obama's victory as seen from Latin America

Praise and congratulations emanated from Latin America, in response to the historic victory of President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday. Many Latin American presidents called for a new era of relations between their country and the United States, however, others expressed doubt as to whether relations will actually change. Editorial boards across the region also provided their interpretation of Obama's win, pointing to both the historic nature of the elections, with Barack Obama being the first African-American in the White House, and the significant challenges that lie ahead, despite the strong popular support for change.

Below you will find quotes from various Latin American presidents' official communications to the United States' new President-elect, as well as links to and excerpts from editorials from many of Latin America's top newspapers.

Latin American presidents' remarks:

Colombia: President Álvaro Uribe

"We have to continue working and looking for support in order to maintain a policy of coordination with the government of the United States against narcotrafficking, terrorism, and the strengthening democratic institutions."

Ecuador: President Rafael Correa

"I think that foreign policy is going to be more reasonable, more humane, less imperialist. I think that (there will be) more attention on Latin America, but I do not believe that there will be changes."

"I dream about the day that Latin America, really does not have to worry about who becomes the president of the United States, because it will be sovereign and autonomous enough to walk on its own two feet."

Correa also stressed the fact that for the first time "a black man will be the president of the United States. It is important that a minority leads the most powerful country in the world."

Bolivia: President Evo Morales

"Mr. Barack Obama has made history, his victory is historic and, in the name of the National Government, congratulations."

"Weeks ago, I said that, regardless of which candidate became president, we would work to improve relations with the United States, but even better with Obama, who is a person who represents the most marginalized sectors."

Chile: President Michelle Bachelet

"I know that we will continue working together to strengthen even further the relations between our countries and take advantage of not only economic opportunities, but also of the training, technology exchange and cultural development that we have."

"This triumph brings us to an historic moment. Because today, when the world is confronted with a serious range of difficulties affecting peoples' lives, such as the energy crisis, the economic crisis, and the food crisis, the international community obviously requires new solutions and a special preoccupation for the less protected populations. I am certain that Barack Obama is an expression of the dreams of an entire nation for a better future, full of hope."

Peru: President Alan Garcia

"We have followed this presidential campaign with interest and admiration, as it has shown the vigor of democracy in the United States and the majority of the U.S population has supported your message of change and hope. We are sure that your leadership and political convictions will be decisive so that the international community will find a responsible and equitable way out of the crisis that is affecting world finances and economy.

We are equally assured that during your term our bilateral relation will continue to strengthen. The vigorous entrance into the Free Trade Agreement, which you supported and used as an example during your campaign, will serve to energize business and investment, and will stimulate exchange and cooperation in the other fields Peru needs for its development and those fields over which the United States has global leadership."

Venezuela: President Hugo Chávez

"The historic election of an African-American to the head of the most powerful nation in the world is a symptom of the changing times that have been brewing from the south of America, which is now knocking on the door of the United States. From Simon Bolivar's homeland, we are convinced that the time has come to establish new relations between our countries and with our region, within the basis of principles of respect for sovereignty, equality, and true cooperation.

From all of the corners of the planet, a clamor is arising that demands a change in international relations and the construction, as the liberator Simon Bolivar said, of an equal, peaceful, and coexisting world.

The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela confirms its will and its determination to build, over a base of absolute respect of sovereignty, a constructive bilateral agenda for the well-being of the Venezuelan and U.S. citizenry."

Mexico: President Felipe Calderón

Text from an official press release:
"The President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, sent a letter today, in the name of the pueblo and the Government of Mexico, to Senator Barack Obama, congratulating him for his victory in the United States' presidential elections.

In the letter, President Calderón reiterated the Government of Mexico's commitment to strengthening and deepening bilateral relations and working toward the construction of a better future for the region. He confided that the relation between both countries will begin a new phase of progress based on shared responsibility, a frank and respectful dialogue, and mutual trust."

Honduras: President Manuel Zelaya

"Barack Obama's victory is one for the entire world, and is for everyone, who in any moment of their lives, have fought for momentous changes through social organization, for civil rights, human rights, to combat inequality. It deserves sincere congratulations to the American population, to the president-elect, and to those who chivalrously accepted defeat."

Editorial Boards

La Razón: Estados Unidos, hacia “el cambio” (The United States made "the change")

"There are 'changing times in Washington,' [Bush] recognized; but immediately, he signaled that 'the world is going to continue being the same' with Obama. The change, it appears, is passing to the other side in the United States. And Bolivia, as the rest of the countries in the region, will have to understand it like that."

Los Tiempos: El triunfo de Barack Obama (Barack Obama's triumph)

"However, what awaits Obama is not anything easy. Many prejudices about his ability to lead were refuted by facts, yet there still remain other relative tests to his true aptitude and decisions to confront with conviction the necessary and monumental challenges such as terrorism and the economic debacle. If it is like this or not, the judgement of history will tell. Until then, what is certain is that the United States population and its democracy gave an admirable show of strength. And that already is, by itself, an extraordinary motive for the United States to revitalize its faith in the future."

El Tiempo: Revolución Obama (Obama revolution)

"In the case of Latin America, and in Colombia in particular, it is too early to speculate about the immediate changes that will be in the bilateral agenda. Regardless, the democratic majority now in power favors adding conditions to military aid packages, trade exchanges, and the fight against drugs in exchange for improvements in human rights. For our country, the arrival of the new Obama administration could become a unique opportunity to spell out new points in the bilateral agenda."

El Comercio: Ganar era previsible, gobernar será titánico (Winning was foreseeable, governing will be titanic)

"The agenda of the United States' new President is one of the most difficult tests in the history of the country. It will require an enormous and historic serenity; from an extraordinary team of advisors and, if it is believed, blessings from the divine."

El Comercio: Estados Unidos: histórica elección y grandes retos (United States: historic election and great challenges)

"In regard to Latin America, one hopes for improved relations, that will not be limited to a revised migration policy, but instead in more concrete links and on a longer time scale. In regard to Peru, it has only been mentioned as an example FTA that could be better considered by our government."

La República: Obama y A. Latina (Obama and Latin America)

"Although there were few references to Latin America during the presidential campaign, . . . there were two concrete points that can be cited in favor of the president-elect. The first was his t.v. spot in relatively correct Spanish, addressed to the hispanic electorate, that, according to the results, he ended up conquering.

The second, that was brought about during his debates with McCain, was in reference to Peru. The senator from Illinois presented himself as favorable to the FTA signed between the USA and our country, to which he practically qualified as exemplar and said that it could count on his support."

El Nacional: Obama y nosotros (Obama and us)

"When Venezuelans think about these campaigns in other countries and we compare them to their elections to elect governors and mayors, it makes them want to cry. Destruction is the war cry of the President against his adversaries. In the United States, the competition has other characteristics. It was between parties and between candidates; here it is between the all-powerful and corrupt government and simple citizens."

La Jornada: Histórico (Historic)

"It is not sensible, ultimately, to hold expectations of a radical change in the power of the United States as a result of the arrival of Barack Obama to the White House. But, it would be unfair to deny the marked and positive political and human differences between the victor at the polls yesterday and the man who in eight years has carried the power of the United States to its worse moral and economic abyss."

Clarín: Una elección por el cambio, en Estados Unidos (An election for change, in the United States)

"The triumph of Barack Obama was the consequence of a profound political mobilization. The Americans voted for a change in national and international policies and the election has an enormous significance for the northern country and for the rest of the world, in that which respects the national administration, international relations and the culture of social relations, because it will contribute to a more inclusive and tolerant society."

El Mercurio: Triunfo de Obama (Obama's triumph)

"Obama represents a distinct way of taking on international themes, in tune with the ruthless criticism that the Democratic Party made to Bush in his eight years."

Prensa Libre: Respecto de una victoria anunciada (Respect of an announced victory)

"This election became a symbol of hope to achieve changes and to establish the now lost unity of the purposes of this country."

Costa Rica:
Nación: Presidente de la esperanza (President of hope)

"The exemplar triumph of Barack Obama reflects the best of the United States. Governing will be the biggest challenge, but he has solid conditions to assume it."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What have McCain and Obama said about Latin America?

Less than one week remains before election day, and the end of what has felt like the longest-ever presidential campaign season. While Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain have tried to show America what a McCain or Obama Administration would look like, talk of how they will work with Latin America has been few and far between. Below, we have compiled links to speeches, press releases, policy statements, and some interviews that will give you a better idea as to what each candidate has been saying about U.S. policy toward and relationship with Latin America.


A New Partnership for the Americas: Fact Sheet on Latin America (PDF)

On Latin America & the Caribbean

At TC Williams High School - Alexandria, VA - Feb 10, 2008

Statement of Senator Barack Obama on Fidel Castro Stepping Down - Feb 19, 2008

Obama Statement on Recent Events near Colombia's Borders - March 3, 2008

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Renewing U.S. Leadership in the Americas - Miami Florida - May 23, 2008

Interview with Barack Obama - ABC News - Jake Tapper

Obama Talks Latin America -- and Spain -- on Miami Radio - Sept 22, 2008

Debate Reality Check: Obama's Position on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement - October 15, 2008


Full text of the McCain interview - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - January 23, 2007

McCain Statement on Castro Resignation

Statement by John McCain on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement - April 11

Remarks by John McCain on Cuban Independence Day - May 20, 2008

John McCain 2008 Launches New Spanish Radio Ad, "Cuba Prisoners" - June 10, 2008

John McCain 2008 Launches New Web Ad: "Colombia Free Trade" July 1, 2008

Statement by John McCain on Today's Hostage Rescue in Colombia - July 2, 2008

ICYMI: John McCain On "Good Morning America" From Columbia (their typo) - July 2, 2008

Statement by John McCain on Venezuela - Sept 12, 2008

[Audio] interview with Union Radio - September 18, 2008

Remarks By John McCain In Miami, FL - October 17, 2008

Dialogue between both candidates at the final presidential debate on October 15: (see full transcript and video of this debate here)

MCCAIN: But let me give you another example of a free trade agreement that Senator Obama opposes. Right now, because of previous agreements, some made by President Clinton, the goods and products that we send to Colombia, which is our largest agricultural importer of our products, is -- there's a billion dollars that we -- our businesses have paid so far in order to get our goods in there.

Because of previous agreements, their goods and products come into our country for free. So Senator Obama, who has never traveled south of our border, opposes the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The same country that's helping us try to stop the flow of drugs into our country that's killing young Americans.

And also the country that just freed three Americans that will help us create jobs in America because they will be a market for our goods and products without having to pay -- without us having to pay the billions of dollars -- the billion dollars and more that we've already paid.

Free trade with Colombia is something that's a no-brainer. But maybe you ought to travel down there and visit them and maybe you could understand it a lot better.

OBAMA: Let me respond. Actually, I understand it pretty well. The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions.

And what I have said, because the free trade -- the trade agreement itself does have labor and environmental protections, but we have to stand for human rights and we have to make sure that violence isn't being perpetrated against workers who are just trying to organize for their rights, which is why, for example, I supported the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement which was a well-structured agreement.

But I think that the important point is we've got to have a president who understands the benefits of free trade but also is going to enforce unfair trade agreements and is going to stand up to other countries....

MCCAIN: Well, let me just said that that this is -- he -- Senator Obama doesn't want a free trade agreement with our best ally in the region but wants to sit down across the table without precondition to -- with Hugo Chavez, the guy who has been helping FARC, the terrorist organization.

Free trade between ourselves and Colombia, I just recited to you the benefits of concluding that agreement, a billion dollars of American dollars that could have gone to creating jobs and businesses in the United States, opening up those markets.


MCCAIN: I have fought against -- well, one of them would be the marketing assistance program. Another one would be a number of subsidies for ethanol.

I oppose subsidies for ethanol because I thought it distorted the market and created inflation; Senator Obama supported those subsidies.

I would eliminate the tariff on imported sugarcane-based ethanol from Brazil.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Latin American and Caribbean Public Security Ministers Convene in Mexico City

Public Security Ministers representing 34 Latin American and Caribbean countries are meeting in Mexico City for the First Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas, a forum convened by the Organization of American States (OAS) to consider joint strategies to tackle "the scourge of crime and violence worldwide."

Upon opening the two-day meeting, OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, said that insecurity in Latin America "is an epidemic or a plague that kills more people than AIDS."

The goal of the meeting is to develop an international strategy against organized crime called, an "Agreement for Public Security in the Americas," that will focus on narcotrafficking and kidnapping in addition to common crimes and violence.

Below you will find links to various articles about the meeting:

In Mexico, OAS' Insulza calls for regular meeting of security ministers and joint action to tackle transnational crime, OAS Press Release (in English)

OAS: Crime is an "epidemic" worse than AIDS, El Nuevo Diario (in Spanish).

Calderón Convenes a Common Front Against Crime before the OAS, El Universal (in Spanish).

The OAS believes insecurity in Latin America is worse than any economic crisis, Hoy (in Spanish)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Latin American leaders speak at the UN General Assembly

This week, many Latin American leaders had the opportunity to speak at the United Nation's 63rd General Assembly in New York. While the remarks of each president varied, a common thread among the speeches was the success of UNASUR and the future of regional cooperation.

Below you can find the link to a summary of each president's remarks in English. The linked pages also contain a .pdf of the full speech in Spanish.

Argentina: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Bolivia: President Evo Morales Ayma

Brazil: President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Chile: President Michelle Bachelet Jeria

Colombia: President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

Costa Rica: President Óscar Arias Sánchez

Cuba: José Ramón Machado Ventura, First Vice-President of the Council of State and Ministers

Dominican Republic: President Leonel Fernández Reyna

El Salvador: President Elías Antonio Saca González

Guatemala: President Álvaro Colom Caballeros

Honduras: President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales

Mexico: President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa

Panama: President Martin Torrijos Espino

Paraguay: President Fernando Lugo Méndez

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Foreign Military Sales in 2007

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists' Arms Sales Monitoring Program, we now have data about weapons and equipment that the U.S. government sold to the rest of the world through the Foreign Military Sales program in 2007.

Foreign Military Sales (FMS) is one of two programs through which military equipment is sold from the United States to the rest of the world. FMS is the means through which the U.S. government sells items directly to other governments. U.S. corporations can sell directly to other governments as well; those sales are licensed by another program, Direct Commercial Sales (DCS).

A total of $348,056,000 in military equipment was sold to Latin America and the Caribbean through FMS in 2007. Another $846,274,296 were licensed that year through DCS, but the U.S. government does not track how many of those licenses end up being fulfilled and resulting in actual equipment deliveries.

The FMS figure maintains levels reached in 2005 and 2006, when Chile took delivery on high-tech F-16 fighter planes. Purchases from Colombia are the reason why the regional total remains high. Colombia bought $231,384,000 worth of military equipment through FMS in 2007, almost exactly two-thirds of the regional total.

Here is how FMS deliveries have evolved in the region between 1996 and 2007.

And here is how all arms sales, from FMS and DCS combined, have behaved during that time period. Keep in mind that a significant portion of the DCS licenses have not ended up as actual deliveries of equipment.

Finally, here are the top 10 types of items sold to the region through FMS in 2007:

1. Helicopter, UH-60: $148,712,000
2. Aircraft Spare Parts: $42,372,000
3. Aircraft Cargo C-130 Series: $29,805,000
4. Repair and Rehabilitation: $20,225,000
5. Other Weapons and Ordnance Equipment: $14,753,000
6. Other Services: $12,332,000
7. Logistics Management Exp: $8,070,000
8. Training: $6,992,000
9. Supply Operations: $5,522,000

Monday, August 11, 2008

U.S. arms sales increase - but as one of many vendors

The latest yearbook of the Stockholm International Peace Research Initiative (SIPRI), published in June, notes a sharp increase in arms transfers to South America.

SIPRI data show the volume of international arms transfers to South America in the period 2003–2007 to be 47 per cent higher than in 1998–2002. Despite attention-grabbing headlines and some evidence of competitive behaviour (e.g. the nature and timing of acquisitions by Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela), it seems unlikely that South America is in the midst of a classically defined arms race. Acquisitions have been primarily motivated by efforts to replace or upgrade military inventories in order to maintain existing capabilities; to respond to predominantly domestic security threats; to strengthen ties with supplier governments; to enhance domestic arms industry capability; or to bolster regional or international profile.

Arms transfers to the region, especially Russia's multi-billion-dollar sales to Venezuela, have been the subject of an increasing amount of media coverage. Occasionally this coverage raises the specter of a regional arms race as countries, their treasuries full due to rising commodity prices, go on weapons-buying sprees in the United States, Europe and China. Other analysts, like those at SIPRI, contend that the term "arms race" is inaccurate, that the region's militaries are merely replacing old, worn-out equipment.

Some countries, particularly Venezuela, Colombia and Chile, are clearly adding new capabilities rather than upgrading old ones. While an arms race is not yet underway, the recent spike in purchases raises the possibility that neighboring countries will feel pressure, particularly from their defense sectors, to keep up. Those civilian leaders who resist increasing defense expenditures to "keep up" may experience friction in their relations with their armed forces.

SIPRI tracks arms transfers throughout the entire world, while the "Just the Facts" project focuses in detail on the United States' role in Latin America and the Caribbean. Do our data show U.S. arms sales to be part of the region's upward trend in arms purchases?

Yes, they certainly do: U.S. arms sales to the hemisphere are increasing. But these increases are not dramatic, and if estimates of arms sales from Russia and elsewhere are correct, U.S. sales are well under half of the regional total.

The section of the "Just the Facts" website that monitors U.S. arms sales - weapons and equipment that countries purchase with their own money, not those they receive as grants from the U.S. government - is here. This data forms the basis for the charts below.

Data show that U.S. arms sales to the region are up, but not sharply. The chart below shows that U.S. arms sales shrank in 1999, 2000 and 2002, a time of poor economic growth in the hemisphere. (The spike in 2001 owed mainly to Argentina making a large one-time purchase of satellite parts, and Colombia buying several helicopters to complement those they were receiving under the "Plan Colombia" aid package.) However, even the 2004-2006 increase merely represents a return to levels last seen in 1996-1998, the last period of robust macroeconomic growth in the region.

The chart shows the three programs through which the U.S. government approves or executes weapons sales. Two concern us, as they make up nearly all sales. The red is Foreign Military Sales (FMS), which manages the U.S. government's arms and equipment sales to other governments. The blue is Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), U.S. government licenses for weapons sales made directly from U.S. companies that manufacture arms and equipment. Two notes:

  • The U.S. government has not made 2007 FMS data available yet. This delay is not unusual, but it means we cannot give an accurate accounting of 2007 arms sales and our chart must end at 2006.
  • While the U.S. government records all the licenses it issues, it does not track how many of these licenses actually result in final sales and deliveries. The total amount of final arms sales through DCS is probably much lower than the licensed total portrayed here - lower by perhaps $100 millon or more.

The next chart shows the same amounts, broken down by country. It reveals that our arms-sales data are a bit distorted by high-tech sales of dual-use equipment to two non-sovereign states. The French territory of French Guiana (orange), from which the European Space Agency frequently launches satellites, and the Cayman Islands (brown), a U.K. territory, both show large periodic increases, mainly due to sales of commercial satellite equipment.

Looking at only sovereign states in the region brings a few U.S. sales trends into much sharper relief. The chart below removes French Guiana, Cayman Islands and other territories from the picture.

We see that arms sales bottomed out in 2003, then began rising sharply in 2004-2006, led by Mexico (blue), Colombia (green) and Chile (orange). Mexico's largest purchases in this period are a satellite, aircraft parts and electronic equipment. Colombia increased purchases, especially helicopters, to employ in its internal conflict. Chile took delivery on high-tech F-16 fighter planes; its constitution reserves a share of Chile's skyrocketing copper-mining revenues for military procurement.

Venezuela (yellow) - the United States' number-one customer in the 1990s thanks to its oil money - is now down to almost no sales at all. A ban on U.S. arms sales whent into effect in 2006 after the U.S. government determined that Venezuela's government was "not sufficiently cooperating" in anti-terrorism efforts. Venezuela's oil-fueled military buildup - including at least $2 billion in purchases from Russia alone - is not generating any income for U.S. arms-makers.

Argentina's (purple) reduced share of arms purchases is more a result of defense-expenditure cutbacks than a reflection on relations with the United States.

It is not clear why Brazil (red) has reduced its purchases from the United States. Brazil's larger purchases during the late 1990s through 2000 were mainly related to aircraft and radar. Some may have been related to Brazil's construction during that period of an aerial Amazon Surveillance System (SIVAM).

As mentioned, the spike in 2001 was principally Argentina buying satellite parts, and Colombia buying some helicopters on its own to accompany those that the United States granted via Plan Colombia.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Graphics of security assistance trends

The graphics below depict overall U.S. military and police aid to Latin America and the Caribbean since 1997, including estimates for 2008 and the Bush administration's request for 2009. Each of the region's top five aid recipients during this period gets its own color: Colombia (blue), Mexico (red), Peru (yellow), Bolivia (green) and Ecuador (purple).

These charts were created entirely with information presented on this site's "Aid By Country" page. All figures are in nominal dollars. Congress is likely to change the 2009 numbers substantially.

The charts tell us several things about overall U.S. security assistance trends.

  • Without adjusting for inflation, military and police aid to Latin America has roughly tripled since 1997.
  • This growth has not been steady. It spiked in 2000 with passage of the "Plan Colombia" aid package, then leveled off during most of the current decade. The "Mérida Initiative" aid package is expected to cause sharp growth again in 2008 and 2009, more than offsetting modest reductions in military and police aid to Colombia. Military and police aid levels to the region are now firmly above one billion dollars per year.
  • The first installment of Mérida came in late June, with approval of the 2008 Supplemental Appropriations Act. For the first time in nearly a decade, Colombia's share of total security assistance to the region slipped below 50 percent. Colombia remains in the number-one position ahead of Mexico, but not by much.
  • Aid to Mexico was a significant portion of the total in 1997-1998, when the Clinton administration briefly expanded counter-drug cooperation with the Zedillo government, including the transfer of dozens of used helicopters and the training of thousands of Mexican Special Forces. Aid to Mexico shrank significantly during Vicente Fox's term in office; in the first years of Plan Colombia, Mexico's military-aid ranking slipped from second to fifth in the region. With the new Mérida aid approved, the 2008 pie chart bears some resemblance to the 1997 chart - but recall that the 2008 pie is now a much larger pastry.

Again, to view the numbers underlying these graphics, visit our "Aid By Country" page.

2008, est.
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