Colombia’s Uribe Out of Office, But Not Out of Mind

By Tom Long

Alvaro Uribe and George W. BushFormer Presidents George W. Bush and Álvaro Uribe of Colombia were close allies in the “war on terror,” but they are taking very different approaches to their post-presidency.  While the former has taken up painting and appears at few public events, since leaving office in 2010 Uribe has consistently tried to upstage his hand-picked successor, Juan Manuel Santos.  He has frequently taken to Twitter with biting criticisms, and in recent months – as provincial and municipal elections near – Uribe’s public condemnations have grown both more vociferous and more damaging.  Even ardent supporters of Uribe’s presidency are questioning his post-presidential politicking, according to press reports.

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Will tensions over security spoil the Obama-Peña Nieto Summit?

By Tom Long

The meeting in December between recently re-elected President Barack Obama and President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto was marked by cordiality and a desire to talk about anything but the often grisly drug-related violence in Mexico during the previous six years.  Since then, Peña Nieto has continued the changed emphasis, aided by headlines pivoting to positive stories.  Mexico has been recently hailed for its economic growth, particularly in export-oriented manufacturing, and for a series of political compromises that The Washington Post favorably compared with the U.S. Congressional stalemate.  Despite optimistic claims from the government, Mexican media reports indicate that drug-related violence continues at nearly the same pace as last year.  (Click here for a summary and analysis by our colleagues at InSight Crime.)  Moreover, pressure is growing on questions of human rights violations committed in the name of the war on drugs.  When Presidents Peña Nieto and Obama meet again in early May, holding back a renewed focus on security is likely to be a challenge.

(Read the full article on the AULA Blog)

South America and the United States after Chávez

By Tom Long

In many depictions, South America’s relations with the United States have been structured around Hugo Chávez for much of the last decade.  So it is natural for the region to wonder where U.S. policy will head now that he is gone.  In the Bush Administration’s framework – which the Obama Administration has largely continued – Chávez and his closest allies in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina were an emerging anti-American axis.  Colombia and Chile were considered Washington’s last bastions of support, and Brazil under Presidents Lula and Dilma variously positioned itself as a quiet moderator or, on occasion, private fan of the estrangement between the unruly ALBA countries and the United States.  With Chávez’s passing, the narrative will change.

(read full article on the AULA Blog)

Elecciones en Estados Unidos: un enfoque único ante inquietudes diversas

In Revista Perspectiva, originally Nov. 6, 2012

Tom Long. Estados Unidos
Candidato doctoral y Fellow de Investigación Doctoral. American University

A lo largo de las Américas, la elección presidencial estadounidense ha atraído una gran atención. Pero a pesar del notable interés, el enfrentamiento entre el presidente Barack Obama y el candidato republicano Mitt Romney no está despertando las mismas expectativas que marcaron la campaña del 2008. En la elección anterior, este sentimiento fue compartido por muchos países de la región. En esta, en cambio, encontramos un panorama con preocupaciones muy diversas.

Como ya ocurrió en el 2008, América Latina no ha sido tema de campaña. Durante su primer mandato como presidente de los Estados Unidos, Obama no le ha dado mucha importancia a los problemas de los países de la región, con una excepción parcial con México y brevemente con las crisis de Honduras y Haití. El apogeo de Obama con América Latina llegó pocos meses después de su inauguración con el discurso en la Cumbre de las Américas en Trinidad y Tobago, pero rápidamente la frustración remplazó a la esperanza cuando la administración vaciló en su posición inicial frente al golpe de estado en Honduras -un cambio aparentemente precipitado por la oposición de una minoría de congresistas norteamericanos de derechas-.

(For the full article, see Revista Perspectiva)

Mexico: A hard road for reforms

By Tom Long

During the campaign, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto proclaimed in thousands of advertisements, “Me comprometo y cumplo” – I make a promise and I keep it.  Offering a list of potentially transformative reforms – regulations, security, telecommunications, energy, and more – he began with one of the most intractable:  the struggling public education system.  In December, at his instigation, the Mexican congress passed a constitutional reform to create stricter standards for teachers and move hiring authority from the teachers’ union to the government.  Enough states had ratified the amendment by the end of February to make it law.  After years of stagnation and interest-group politics, education reform suddenly became politically expedient, passing with support from the PRI, PAN, and PRD.  Last week, the government put an exclamation point on the reform by arresting the teachers’ union boss, Elba Esther Gordillo, on charges of using her post for illicit gains surpassing $100 million.  A PRI apostate whose opposing alliance was credited with helping former President Felipe Calderón win his razor-thin victory in 2006, she was not just expendable, but an obstacle.

(Read the full post at AULA Blog.)