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Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere in Miami

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Public Policy
Saturday, 21 December 2013 11:10

By Arthur Freyre

(Coral Gables, Florida) Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere, Ms. Roberta Jacobson, spoke before a group at the University of Miami Center of Hemispheric Affairs last week. Jacobson and several of her colleagues were in South Florida, in part, for a business conference.  Jacobson's speech focused on the Administration’s effort in Latin America. Jacobson focused most of her remarks on the issues of education exchanges between students in the United States and in Latin America, narcotics interdiction, and trade.

Cuba: A Lot of Issues Discussed, Much to Be Done

After the presentation, the floor was opened for questions. The first question dealt with Cuba and the now seemingly infamous handshake between President Obama and Raul Castro. Ms. Jacobson stated that “a handshake was just a handshake.” Her bigger concern was the interaction between the President and Brazil's president. 

Jacobson further explained that the President was being courteous when he shook hands with the Cuban leader. She wished that people focused on the President's speech especially the line of those nations who were in "solidarity with Mandela, but would not tolerate the same dissent in their country." She said that the President did have the Cuban government in mind when he made that statement.

She also noted the sad irony that 20 Ladies in White were arrested in Cuba along with others Cuban dissidents in the island, while the Cuban government was remembering Mandela’s struggle for freedom against apartheid. She also noted how average Americans through various cultural exchange, religious institutions, and etc.. are visiting Cuba.

She stressed numerous times that the White House has been clear with regard to Cuba, but disappointed when Cuba takes a step back in terms of freedom for the Cuban people. Noting that this year marks the 5th anniversary of Alan Gross imprisonment in Cuba, Jacboson stated that no new relations with Cuba could be discussed until Mr. Gross is released.

Brazil: An Evolving Relationship

The next question dealt with Brazil. She discussed that the Pacific Alliance will eventually change from a geographic organization to something different. She reiterated Secretary Kerry's concern for a regulated internet, in wake of the NSA spy scandal, given the fact that the internet is an engine of innovation despite some of the problems. The third question dealt with the issues of emerging democracies. She did state that just because she did not mentioned it in her speech, that does not represents that this issue was not a priority in the administration. She cited the most recent elections in Honduras. But she also explained that democracies are not just about elections, it is about governing as well.

Venezuela: Productive Relationship Desired, But Rough Road Ahead

The final question dealt with Venezuela. She explained that the US wants to have a productive relationship with Venezuela, but that Venezuela is the one responsible for placing the obstacles in the relationship. She expressed the U.S. commitment to meet with all people-government, opposition, labor, etc.

All and all, it was an interesting and informative session. These issues are of great interest in South Florida, a gateway city and financial hub for the Western Hemisphere and Latin America. Because political and economic developments in Latin America can greatly impact our area, our clients are always asking us for updates on these matters.


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