Building on his creative engagement with Latin America after the George W. Bush years of blindness and neglect, there is much the president can accomplish immediately. Lifting the senseless blockade against Cuba, followed by full diplomatic relations, would be a good beginning. Another sore spot is Honduras, where the United States has not done enough to isolate and punish the de facto government, which came to power through a coup against the country’s elected president. And Obama should rethink his approach to hemispheric security (canceling, for instance, Plan Colombia) as a way of defusing tensions in a Latin America threatened by a new arms race.
On another front, presidents Alvaro Uribe of Colombia and Felipe Calderon of Mexico, seconded by Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, have valiantly opened up a tentative conversation about the failed "war on drugs." If Obama were to encourage, and perhaps imitate, their efforts to decriminalize the use of marijuana, it would help alter an irrational policy that has generated a mafia of drug dealers across the Americas.
There are, of course, the real wars to win. Against poverty and tyranny, against ecological depredation and the marginalization of the indigenous peoples and their wisdom. The president, with his immense heart and his inspirational words, could be a fundamental partner in our quest for a better future.
A good starting point!