- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009


President Obama tried to practice “Sally Field diplomacy” in Latin America by reaching out to U.S. opponents in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela and believing they “like me,” only to have his overtures rejected, a former Costa Rican ambassador said in an analysis of Mr. Obama’s first year in office.

Jaime Daremblum, now director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute in Washington, reviewed Mr. Obama’s “four stages” of diplomacy in the region, saying he started out “marveling at his own popularity” like Miss Field, the perky actress best known for portraying the “Flying Nun” on television. She accepted an Academy Award in 1985, gushing that her fellow actors “like me, right now, you like me!”

“The administration engaged Venezuela and stayed quiet, as [President] Hugo Chavez continued demolishing its democratic institutions,” Mr. Daremblum wrote. “The president also pursued olive-branch diplomacy with the Cuban dictatorship.”

Before the April Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, Mr. Obama announced a loosening of U.S. sanctions against Cuba but “got nothing substantive in return,” Mr. Daremblum noted.

“If Obama believed that his personal charm and assurances of good will would be sufficient to sway Chavez and the Castro brothers, he was mistaken,” he said, referring to Fidel and Raul Castro.

“Chavez remains as belligerent and dangerous as ever,” he said, adding that a recent Human Rights Watch report noted “government repression on the communist island remains ‘firmly in place and fully active.’ ”

Mr. Obama’s “second stage” involved his “deference” to the leftists who influence the Organization of American States and his support for sanctions against Honduras, after that country removed Manuel Zelaya from the presidency, Mr. Daremblum wrote. The Obama administration initially joined Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and other Latin American nations in denouncing Honduras for a military coup, although the Honduran Supreme Court charged Mr. Zelaya with violating the constitution and ordered his removal.

“Stage three” came when Mr. Obama reversed himself and agreed to recognize the Nov. 29 presidential election in Honduras, won by conservative candidate Porfirio Lobo, Mr. Daremblum said.

Mr. Obama entered the latest stage with the appointment of Arturo Valenzuela as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. However, “at this point, it is unclear” whether Mr. Valenzuela will have an “appreciable” impact on U.S. policy, said Mr. Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador in Washington from 1998 to 2004.


The chairmen of a key congressional human rights panel are demanding that Russia provide better protection to political critics, after a policeman received a two-year prison sentence for killing a journalist in police custody last year.

“In today’s Russia, it seems that you can commit all manner of violence and outrage against the weaker segments of society and be reasonably assured of a slap on the wrist,” said Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, co-chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Florida Democrat added that Moscow “needs to get serious about protecting the rights of all it citizens.” He was reacting to the sentence handed down Monday to Ibragim Yevloyev for fatally shooting Magomed Yevloyev, who was not related to his killer. The victim edited an opposition Web site in the Russian republic of Ingushetia.

Commission Chairman Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, said the killing “silenced yet another voice” of criticism and that the “mere two-year sentence for his killer sends a strong and shameful message of impunity.”

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

• James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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