The first debate between Barack Obama and John McCain left a “big frustration” among Latinos in the U.S. and Latin Americans watching across the hemisphere. Jorge Ramos, the Univision anchor, wrote “Latin America was completely ignored.”
“Neither Obama nor (John) McCain nor moderator Jim Lehrer dedicated even a few seconds to it. Nothing. Like President George Bush for almost eight years, the presidential candidates and the PBS journalist treated the region as it did not exist.”
The morning after the debate, Ramos had an opportunity to question Obama and his running mate Joe Biden about what U.S. relations with Latin America will be like if they win the November election. [You can find videos of the interview in Greensboro, N.C. on this page.]
Ramos first asked Obama whether he was still open to meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, after the latter expelled the American ambassador to the South American country and insulted the U.S. during a mass rally. Obama said that, as the president, he would have the obligation to meet anyone if he thought that it “would make America safer.”
Obama went on to say that Chávez has exploited his standing as a U.S. enemy to improve his popularity at home. [Univision has not yet published an English transcript of the interview.]
When Ramos followed up with a question to Biden about Russia’s joint military exercises with Venezuela in the Caribbean and about Chávez’s stated intention to build nuclear power plants, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations “answered with strong criticism, not for Chávez or the Russians, but for President Bush and candidate John McCain,” Ramos wrote.
Biden complained that the U.S. government has no set foreign policy towards Russia nor Latin America. “There’s no policy,” he said. “They don’t know what to do.”
The next topic was Mexico and drug violence. According to Ramos, Obama agreed with Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s assessment that for violence in Mexico to diminish, drug consumption has to decrease in the U.S. Obama called for a partnership with Mexico whereby the U.S. would do a better job of preventing money and guns from crossing the border into Mexico while the southern neighbor would continue fighting northwards drug trafficking.