Barack Obama, MPI and Colombia

In his “New Partnership for the Americas,” Barack Obama’s Latin America team proposes doubling foreign assistance to Latin America to $50 billion. I’ll put aside for now the questions of where that money will from, or what good it will do if coupled with his annoying protectionist pandering, and focus on a positive note.* The report says that the money

“…will focus on bottom-up development by concentrating on micro-finance, vocational training and community development programs.”

Over the last couple months, the MPI-Ecuador team has been working on solidifying our approach to community development. Our three areas of focus:

  • Empower individuals through programs that develop their capacities to advance economically and educationally, and to become leaders in their communities.
  • Strengthen institutions by working alongside them to introduce best practices, connect them to national and international resources, and expand their services.
  • Build networks by creating stronger links among community members, connecting people to local institutions, and promoting inter-institutional collaboration.

Not bad to be out in front on this one, and glad that Barack sees this one MPIE’s way.


*I can’t leave out this (loyalist) criticism of an otherwise forward-looking plan. From the same Obama document:

Oppose the Colombia Free Trade Deal: While the Colombia Free Trade Agreement has some labor and environmental standards, these protections are undermined by persistent violence in Colombia. Labor protections remain useless in an environment where union leaders are routinely assassinated. Barack Obama will work with Colombia to bring the perpetrators to justice and protect labor activists.

What this position ignores is that labor union leaders have a lower rate of assassination than Colombians at large, and that the current Colombian administration has overseen a vertiginous drop in violence in Colombia. That doesn’t speak to Colombia’s safety, but it does undercuts the argument that labor union leaders are assassinated “routinely.” And in a country as shorn as Colombia, President Uribe’s Weberian monopoly on violence, finally bearing fruit, may be the only way to transition the country out of its four decades of guerilla warfare. Punishing Colombian businesses and consumers by cutting off trade hardly inspires Hope and Change.


For a more professional analysis of Barack Obama’s somewhat disconnected Latin American foreign policy, check out this article from Foreign Policy in Focus.

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