LIMA – U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday that he does not foresee any big changes in his country’s policy toward Latin America under the government of his successor in the White House, the Republican Donald Trump.
During a forum attended by around 1,000 students at the Pontifical Catholic University of Lima, Obama admitted, however, that he anticipates tensions, particularly on trade matters, because of the proposals Trump made during his electoral campaign.
Obama also said it is important that Latin America and the rest of the world give the U.S. president-elect a chance and not assume the worst about him before he finishes assembling his staff and begins to govern.
Trump promised during his campaign to put an end to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), made up of the U.S., Mexico and Canada, and also referred to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which includes two Latin American countries, Chile and Peru, as a “disaster.”
Trump also threatened to scuttle the thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba if no progress is seen in human rights and individual freedoms on the island.
At the forum, Obama also reflected on democracy and said there was a lot more to it than just holding elections, since many other elements are involved like freedom of the press, religious freedom and the protection of minorities.
Asked about the situation in Venezuela, Obama did not answer directly, but said governments that are repressive and silence the opposition are bound to fail, and their economies along with them.
He gave as extreme opposites countries like Chile, Peru and Colombia, which he said are among those growing faster and better thanks to the strength of their democracies.
At the beginning of the forum, Obama announced that his government will provide scholarships and resources to strengthen the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, or YLAI, which now as some 20,000 members.