The disagreements at the Summit of the Americas provided the Romney campaign with a perfect opportunity to attack Obama on U.S. policies in Latin America, and as usual his campaign flubbed it:
Concerning the illegal flow of narcotics, the Obama administration completely lost control of the summit agenda. The main policy proposal discussed in Colombia was not new ways to end the scourge that has ruined countless lives and undermined effective governance and the rule of law. Rather, it was to legalize drug consumption, a policy that the president himself opposes. That legalization received a serious hearing at the gathering is an undeniable setback at a moment when the reach of cartels and their horrific violence is at a peak.
Legalization or at least de-criminalization is part of any solution to end the regional scourge that is the drug war. The drug war has “ruined countless lives and undermined effective governance and the rule of law,” but that isn’t what Gutierrez, Romney’s representative, means when he says this. The fact that legalization received a serious hearing reflects the frustration and impatience of many Latin American governments with the futility and destructiveness of the drug war, whose costs are disproportionately borne by their citizens. If Romney actually understood Latin America as well as Gutierrez claims he does, he would know that and he wouldn’t dismiss the calls for changing U.S. drug policy as a “setback.”
Guitierrez goes on to blame the disagreements over Cuba on a “lack of leadership” from Obama:
The summit epitomized the damage that has been done over the past three years: instead of fostering greater democracy, the major topic of conversation was whether to invite Cuba to the next summit. This is what the lack of American leadership has wrought.
Perhaps if the U.S. were not still pursuing an antiquated Cuba policy that hasn’t made sense in at least twenty years, the U.S. would be in a stronger position to persuade other governments in the hemisphere that an authoritarian government should not participate in such a meeting. It is also possible that many Latin American governments would view the exclusion of Cuba as a useless anachronism regardless of what the U.S. did, so “American leadership” or the lack thereof might have nothing to do with it. It should go without saying that Romney would have been even more at odds with most of the other leaders over drug policy and Cuba if he had been at the summit than Obama was.