The American attitude, unfortunately, toward Latin America has mostly been one of neglect with the proviso that no news is good news. We turn our attention to the region only when the Castro brothers, or an Ortega, Morales, or Chavez become prominent. We don't understand the history or contours of the area, although it is proximate and the source of most of our present generation of immigrants. In turn, Latin America has always had a passive-aggressive attitude toward the United States, one characterized by envy and a jealousy-driven animosity, coupled by a desire to emulate and indeed immigrate to the United States. Our policy should have been a respectful partnership that advocates free trade, constitutional government and free-market capitalism—a message distorted by both the Cold War and the disastrous Latin American embrace of communism and state socialism.
Obama in superficial multicultural fashion thinks he can try to trill an M-sounding archipelago and that will impress Latin Americans that he is a new sort of post-national America; but aside from the embarrassing ignorance of geography, and Obama's blatant efforts to pander for the Hispanic vote by creating de facto amnesty for illegal immigrants, all Obama is doing is showing a new sort of politically-correct American insularity. There are no new Latin American initiatives from the White House; he is slow on trade agreements; and those countries who fear Chavezism feel no sense of support for their increasingly lonely efforts to ensure free and regular elections and the protection of private property and free enterprise. I think, in truth, a Chavez or an Ortega feels that deep down Obama sympathizes with their agendas (cf. Hillary Clinton's Honduras mess, the hug to Chavez, the reply to Ortega that Obama was but a tyke when our government supposedly did such terrible things, etc.), but cannot, for political reasons, openly express such solidarity—an undercurrent that does much to dishearten those governments who want to be natural American allies.
Right now we should be trying to form some sort of North-South American Common Market that is predicated on two or three iron-clad criteria: market capitalism, constitutional government, and human rights—as an alternative to the new creeping Marxism of the Chavez/Ortega sort. If we are not careful, at some point we will wake up to a nuclear Brazil, a civil war in Venezuela, another Argentine invasion of the Falklands, and partnerships between anti-American Marxist governments and Middle Eastern terrorists.