Latin American leaders welcome Obama presidency

November 6th, 2008 - 2:43 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaMiami, Nov 6 (IANS) Leaders across Latin America Wednesday welcomed the election of Barack Obama as the president of the US, Spain’s EFE news agency reported.Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva labelled the African-American senator’s victory “extraordinary” and said he expected Obama to promote “stronger relations” among the US, Latin America and Africa, and to “end the blockade on Cuba”.

“Whoever doubted that a black man could be president of the United States now knows that he can and he can because it happened in a democratic system that allows society to express itself,” Lula told reporters.

Lula praised the US president-elect’s “political competence” and expressed hope that Washington would have “stronger relations with Latin America, Brazil and Africa,” and that the new Democratic administration would adopt a “policy of support” for the development of poor countries.

“I also expect that he will end the blockade on Cuba, for which there is no human explanation,” the Brazilian leader said.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez congratulated Obama and said in a statement saying, “the time has come to establish new relations.”

“We are convinced that the time has come to establish new relations between our countries and with our region on the foundation of respect for sovereignty, equality and real cooperation,” Chavez said in a statement released by the foreign ministry.

“The election of an Afro-descendant to lead the most powerful nation in the world is a sign that the changing times that have been seen in South America could be reaching the doors of the United States,” Chavez said.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez sent a letter of congratulations to Obama, praising his election as a “great milestone” in the struggle for social equality.

“The period that starts today in your country, above all else, is a great milestone in one of the most impassioned odysseys in history, the struggle against discrimination and for equality of opportunities,” Fernandez said.

Bolivian President Evo Morales hailed Obama’s victory and said his “great desire” was the lifting of Washington’s economic embargo against Cuba, as well as the pullout of US troops from other countries.

“For sure, he’s going to continue making history. My great desire, hopefully, is that Mr. Obama will be able to lift the economic blockade on Cuba and to withdraw the troops from some countries,” Morales, a close ally of Cuba and Venezuela, told reporters before his weekly Cabinet meeting.

Morales, Bolivia’s first Indian president, said Obama was a “gentleman who comes from the most discriminated groups, a gentleman who comes from the enslaved groups.”

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said Obama’s election marked “a historic moment” and that his platform was based on shared principles.

“I believe we are living a historic moment with this win because the world today must deal with serious difficulties for the lives of people, such as the energy crisis, the economic crisis and the food crisis,” the Chilean president said.

“I know that his principal concerns are social justice and equality of opportunities, issues that he has emphasized with the themes of change and hope. They are surely the same principles that inspire us in Chile,” Bachelet said.

Cuban President Raul Castro has not commented publicly on Obama’s win, but the island’s state-controlled press reported the outcome of the U.S. election and questioned whether it represented real “change”.

Granma, the Cuban Communist Party’s official newspaper, ran a headline that said “Obama to the White House,” but under a photo of the president-elect it posed the question: “The candidate of change?”

Obama made it to Tuesday’s presidential election “with the support of the ruling class in the United States” and of “the majority of the Democratic ‘establishment,’” it said.

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