- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

LATIN MOMENT

President Obama will display his concern for Latin America and the Caribbean when he attends a major summit in Trinidad next month, according to his special envoy for the meeting of 34 regional leaders.

“He is going to Trinidad with the intention of treating all the presidents there with the respect that they merit as elected heads of state,” Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, the White House adviser for the Fifth Summit of the Americas on April 17-19, told the Caribbean Net News in an interview published Wednesday.

“And it is my hope that all the other presidents there will treat each other with that same kind of respect and use the kind of language one would expect in polite company.”

Although he did not mention any national leader by name, Venezuela’s anti-American president, Hugo Chavez, regularly lashes out against the United States in conspiratorial rants about U.S. diplomats trying to engineer his overthrow. He even referred to former President George W. Bush as the “devil” in remarks he delivered before the U.N. General Assembly.

Some observers have criticized Mr. Obama for moving too slowly in establishing a firm position in Latin America and for allowing Russia and China to spread their influence in the region.

Mr. Davidow served as U.S. ambassador to Venezuela from 1991 to 1996, two years before Mr. Chavez was first elected. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Zambia from 1989 to 1990 and to Mexico from 1998 to 2002. Mr. Davidow was assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere issues from 1996 to 1998.

COMFORT IN TAIWAN

The Obama administration finds “comfort” in the new diplomatic dialogue between Taiwan and China, the top U.S. diplomat to Taiwan said Wednesday.

Raymond Burghardt, chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan, expressed relief over the efforts of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou to tone down the tension with the communist government on the mainland, which considers Taiwan a renegade province and has threatened war if the island declares independence. Mr. Ma’s predecessor, Chen Shui-bian, favored independence for Taiwan, which has a democratic government and has conducted its own affairs since losing a civil war with the Chinese communists in 1949.

“This era of cross-strait stability is very favorable to U.S. interests,” he said, referring to the 100-mile-wide sea lane separating Taiwan from China.

Mr. Burghardt, in talks with reporters in Taipei, dismissed suggestions that Washington was upset by Mr. Ma’s overtures to China. Some analysts claimed that the United States wanted to use the threat of Taiwanese independence as pressure on China.

“I have never heard it in a policy discussion, and I have never seen it in a policy document,” Mr. Burghardt said.

The United States established the American Institute in Taiwan in 1979 to maintain informal ties with Taiwan after Washington opened diplomatic relations with China.

ISOLATING PAKISTAN

The Obama administration risks losing Pakistan to a radical, violent Islamic extremist movement unless it wins the hearts and minds of ordinary Pakistanis, an expert on jihadist militants said Wednesday.

“The United States must engage and be on the side of Pakistan’s dynamic civil society, as it struggles to redirect the country toward the path of moderation and the goal of social justice,” Ayesha Jalal, a Pakistani-American and professor at Tufts University, said at a hearing of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom.

“If America is to isolate terrorists, it must avoid isolating the Pakistani people.”

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail James Morrison.

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