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Embassy Row

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2008

LATIN AMERICAN APPEAL

Latin America is desperate for action from the incoming U.S. administration, as diplomats and analysts in Washington appeal to President-elect Barack Obama to pay attention to a region with drug violence and failing governments as well as developing nations trying to hold on to economic gains in a worldwide financial crisis.

Jaime Daremblum, a former ambassador from Costa Rica and now director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute, wants Mr. Obama to appoint a blue-ribbon commission to recommend policies to promote democratic and economic reforms. He suggested the commission should be chaired by Thomas "Mack" McLarty, Latin American envoy under President Clinton.

Jose Miguel Insulza, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, sent Mr. Obama a letter last week, telling him, "Your election raises immense hope in the Americas. ... We have a unique opportunity for a positive agenda in the Americas." He also invited Mr. Obama to visit OAS headquarters at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest, not far from the White House.

Thursday morning, Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, will address a forum on Latin America and the new administration at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The forum will include Ambassador Antonio Patriota of Brazil and Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan of Mexico and focus on the latest issue of the Americas Quarterly magazine, which includes memos to Mr. Obama from 31 opinion leaders in the Americas.

Mr. Daremblum, in an analysis of the challenges in the region facing the new administration, recognized that Latin America "will probably not be one of Obama's top-tier priorities," but he urged Mr. Obama to at least appoint a commission to help establish policies for the area. He noted that President Reagan named such a commission and appointed Henry Kissinger as chairman during a time when Latin America was wracked with communist insurgencies.

"The debate over Latin America has become quite polarizing, with Republicans and Democrats bickering about free trade, foreign aid, the war on drugs, how to handle Venezuela, whether to ease sanctions against Cuba and more," he wrote.

Mr. Daremblum, ambassador in Washington from 1998 to 2004, listed Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay as countries with good economic growth.

However, Argentina and Venezuela, two of the largest countries in the region, are among the failing nations. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner prompted "massive street protests" from Argentines opposed to her plan to take over their private pension plans, while President Hugo Chavez "has trampled democracy" in Venezuela and "embraced authoritarianism," Mr. Daremblum said.

HAIR OF THE DOG

A dog association in Peru this week contacted the U.S. Embassy in Lima to offer President-elect Barack Obama a solution to his canine problem.

Mr. Obama has promised his daughters a dog, but one of his children has allergies and hypoallergenic breeds are limited to about 20. Poodles are the most popular among those breeds but might not fit the image of a dog for the leader of the free world.

Claudia Galvez, president of the Friends of the Peruvian Hairless Dog Association, has offered the new first family a dog that is, well, hairless, and good for children with allergies. Mrs. Galvez told the embassy that she and her son have asthma but she owns six Peruvian hairless dogs.

The 4-month-old dog the association offered is named Machu Picchu, after Peru's ancient Inca fortress.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.