Monday, April 13, 2015

Obama lands in Latin America while ‘China is running away with the gold’ in the region

Obama lands in Latin America while ‘China is running away with the gold’ in the region
Opening a three-day trip to the Caribbean and Central America, US President Barack Obama hopes to capitalize on mutual needs in the face of expanding Chinese influence and weakening power by Venezuela, once the energy juggernaut of the Americas.
Obama’s arrival Wednesday evening in Kingston, Jamaica, was low-key compared with the excitement he stirred in the Caribbean upon his election in 2008. Greeted at the airport tarmac by dignitaries including Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, Obama slipped into a motorcade that ran through mostly quiet, empty streets.
The visit comes amid a perception that Obama’s interest in the region has failed to materialize. Yet his travels — first to Jamaica, then to the Summit of the Americas in Panama — follow a year of increased attention to the region by the US president. His immigration executive orders, his efforts to slow the influx of Central American minors to the US border, and his diplomatic outreach to Cuba have put a foreign policy spotlight on US neighbors to the south.
Obama on Thursday will meet with Simpson Miller and with other leaders in the 15-member Caribbean Community. He also plans to speak to young regional leaders in a town-hall setting, continuing a tradition of engaging new generations in foreign political and civil society institutions.
The president promptly paid tribute to the island’s cultural hero, the late reggae star Bob Marley, making an unscheduled visit Wednesday night to the legendary singer’s museum. He toured Marley’s former home as Marley’s hit “One Love” played through the building’s sound system.
Venezuela is betraying its friends to survive
To make it through 2015 without going into crippling default, Venezuela must break promises that made it possible for late President Hugo Chavez to build a strong relationship with Latin American and Caribbean nations largely forgotten by the Obama Administration.
And for the US, this is an opportunity to get back in the game.
The fundamental promise Venezuela must break is a program called Petrocaribe.
The initiative sold Venezuelan oil to countries like Jamaica and the Dominican Republic at rock-bottom prices with almost no interest. It’s part of what led countries that don’t share the ideals of Venezuela’s unique brand of socialism to call Hugo Chavez and current President Nicolas Maduro friends.
Venezuela can’t afford this anymore. The country’s inflation rate has soared to more than 60%, people wait in line for days to find basic goods like milk and toilet paper, President Maduro’s approval rating has collapsed to below 30%, and his opposition — though fragmented — is still taking to the streets.
The culprit for Venezuela’s woes is economic mismanagement as much as it is falling oil prices.
Shuffling cash from here to there
While oil makes up 95% of the country’s exports and over 60% of its revenue, Venezuela has done nothing to solve these problems.
What it has done, however, is delay disaster by moving some money around and asking for a little help from the friends Chavez made. For example, the Dominican Republic managed to throw Venezuela some cash by selling debt it owed Venezuela to Goldman Sachs.

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