Obama Win Praised in Latin America

wall street journal logoFrom Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, reaction to President Obama’s re-election was broadly positive across Latin America, a region that tilts well to the left of American electoral politics. "By Knockout!" read the front-page headline of Mexico’s Milenio daily.Although the region was ignored during the campaign, the strong turnout from Hispanic voters in key states like Florida fanned hopes that politicians on both sides of the U.S. political divide will focus more on the region in years to come, including issues like immigration reform."This is very good for Latin America," said former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda, now a professor at New York University.Guido Mantega, Brazil’s Finance minister, told reporters in Brasilia, "Obama’s reelection is positive for Brazil and the G-20."Argentine President Cristina Kirchner was among the many regional leaders to send warm congratulations to the president. "Know with certainty that the Argentine people and their president will always be together with you in the construction of a more just and less violent world, one with more equality and less inequality," the Argentine leader said in a statement.For Mexico in particular, the U.S. electoral results were viewed positively by many Mexicans for two of its main issues with the U.S.: immigration and the country’s anti-drug war.Partly because the Hispanic vote in the U.S. was decisive for Mr. Obama’s victory, the president is viewed as likely to push hard on immigration reform to give legal status to millions of undocumented Hispanic workers in the U.S.—many of them Mexican. Mr. Obama mentioned the reform as a priority during his victory speech.At the same time, Gov. Romney’s comments during the Republican primary that undocumented workers should "self-deport" gained widespread criticism across the region.Record Latino turnout might prompt the Republican Party to re-examine the issue in the hopes of wooing Hispanic voters in future elections. Immigration reform could get support of such Republicans as Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas’ newly elected Senator Ted Cruz, as well as Senators Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain, among others, Mr. Castañeda said. "You don’t need 20 senators, only five or six," he said."The weight of the Latino vote should open some eyes," said Jaime Serra, a former Mexican trade minister who helped negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mr. Serra said the U.S. administration might have better luck selling the reform if it treated the issue as one of labor mobility that might help U.S. manufacturers."We created mobility of capital and goods in North America with NAFTA. We haven’t done the same for labor," he said.More broadly, the growing clout of Hispanic voters in the U.S. is likely to increase attention to the region in coming years after a campaign in which the area was almost completely neglected."In the long run—from here to five or 10 years—it’s very likely that we’ll see more attention to Mexico and Latin America on the part of the political class in the U.S. and a much less strident tone on immigration," said Andrew Selee, head of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C.Another issue of interest south of the border was the move to legalize the recreational use of marijuana by Washington and Colorado states. Growing numbers of Latin American leaders have declared the U.S.-led war on drugs a failure and urged the U.S. to consider steps like legalization.They include leaders such as Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, Guatemalan President Otto Pérez, and Uruguay’s President José Mujica."What’s the logic in having the army destroy marijuana plantations in Sinaloa, Michoacan and Guerrero, and bust the drug traffickers who send it up to the U.S., when the product is legal as soon as it reaches Denver?" Mr. Castañeda said.A Mexican think tank last week issued a report that estimated legalization by Colorado and Washington would cost the Mexican cartels as much as $2.8 billion dollars in lost revenue. Most analysts, however, said the measure would have far less impact given that marijuana was still banned at the U.S. federal level.Like much of the world, Latin America was worried about Washington’s ability to reach a compromise on the budget and avoid a "fiscal cliff" of mandatory spending cuts and tax increases that could tilt the economy back into recession. Markets across the region declined on the day along U.S. stock prices."It’s not going to be a tea party," said Paulo Faria-Tavares, managing partner of PTX Lending consultants in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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