Jennifer Rubin makes suggestions for Romney’s Hispanic outreach, of which this is probably the most tendentious:
Third, he should stress the degree to which he would repair and deepen ties to Central and South America. In taking the side of Hugo Chavez’s puppet in Honduras and inexcusably delaying ratification of the Colombia free-trade deal, Obama has continually undercut pro-democratic forces in our hemisphere. Romney should pledge to broaden economic relations and make clear we stand on the side of human rights, democracy and religious freedom, and not with the Castros and Chavez.
I can’t say for sure, but my guess is that Hispanic voters in the U.S. are not won over by Rick Santorum’s talking points on Latin America. Talking about Latin America in Cold War-style language and making Obama’s original position on the ousting of Zelaya into a 2012 election issue seem like good ways to confirm that Republicans have no idea what the target audience cares about. I doubt that bringing up the deeply flawed Colombia FTA, which is likely to have very harmful effects on small Colombian cultivators, is an effective way to score points (unless Romney were willing to criticize the agreement for being too favorable to large agribusinesses and landholders, which seems unlikely). Repackaging inaccurate talking points from 2009 isn’t going to be very effective.
Romney might have more luck if he acknowledged how harmful the drug war has been for Hispanics in the U.S., just as it has been disastrous for many countries in Central America and for Mexico in particular. Suppose that Romney proposed dramatic changes to U.S. drug policy and drug enforcement, which is exactly what some Central American leaders have requested. If Romney were to propose the decriminalization or legalization of at least some drugs, that would not only distinguish him from Obama in a constructive and interesting way, but it would also address an important regional problem that is doing terrible damage to the societies of many neighboring countries as well as our own. Since the administration is firmly committed to continuing the drug war, it would be Romney’s chance to criticize Obama on a major policy issue where Obama is both in the wrong and potentially politically vulnerable. That wouldn’t guarantee that Romney would make any headway with Hispanic voters, but it would at least be an acknowledgment that there is more to winning over disaffected groups of voters than superficially pandering to them on the most predictable issue imaginable.