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On drugs and crime, both candidates support the Merida agreement, a $400 million program that seeks to bolster the Mexican government’s war on drug cartels. Mr. Obama has said he wants to augment the program with a strategy that addresses the U.S. demand for drugs and also stems southward gun flows.

Both candidates support giving the Colombian military money to fight coca growers and back pre-emptive strikes against insurgent guerrilla bases in neighboring states.

Mr. McCain is also eager to give Colombia a free-trade deal, something Bogota wants badly.

Michael Shifter - vice president for policy of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based group that favors closer hemispheric ties - said Latin Americans in general prefer Mr. Obama’s approach.

“Obama’s tone, style, cosmopolitanism and racial mix appeal to many in the region,” Mr. Shifter said. “They also like his emphasis on diplomacy and multilateralism, in contrast to what they see as McCain’s more Cold War mind-set, viewing the region as divided between America’s friends and adversaries.”

Most Latin Americans also “desperately want an American president who can fix the current financial mess and get its own house in order, since Latin America is being profoundly affected by the downturn in the U.S. and globally,” Mr. Shifter said. “Obama appears steadier and more reassuring on that score.”

However, on some specific issues, such as trade, Latin governments prefer Mr. McCain, Mr. Shifter said. “The Brazilians in particular like McCain’s view on removing ethanol subsidies and would hope that Obama would at least reconsider his position.”

Mr. McCain sees free trade as key to lifting the region from poverty.

He supports the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), free-trade deals with Panama and Peru as well as Colombia, and seeks to revive the Free Trade Area of the Americas - a hemispheric concept opposed by many Latin American nations.

Mr. Obama opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and wants to amend NAFTA. He also thinks free markets need regulatory intervention and wants changes in the economic and political conditions linked to loans given poor countries by Washington-backed institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.

Mr. Obama also would cancel the multilateral debts of poor, highly indebted nations such as Haiti, Bolivia and Honduras, said Miss Morigi, the Obama spokeswoman.

Mr. Scheunemann of the McCain campaign said Mr. Obama’s opposition to free trade with Colombia and desire to renegotiate NAFTA reflect “pandering to big labor bosses.” Such policies “would harm relations with our two largest trading partners at a time when we need the jobs dependent on exports more than ever before,” Mr. Scheunemann said.

For both candidates, Latin America is a major factor in dealing with climate change and energy policy. Besides lifting import duties on sugar-cane-based ethanol from Brazil, Mr. McCain would implement a cap-and-trade plan to lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Obama would let U.S. emitters of greenhouse gases offset some of their emissions by investing in low-carbon energy projects in the developing world. His campaign literature also says that he would look for “incentives to maintain Latin American forests” in sustainable ways.

On immigration, Mr. Obama calls for simultaneously tightening border security and providing an easier path to U.S. citizenship for immigrants from the south. Mr. McCain stresses border security first.

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