Over the last three decades not many of us noticed that to the south of our borders, people rose up and created a "Central/South American Spring" that - with a few exceptions - went much more smoothly that the one we witnessed in the Middle East.
But as Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Randal Archibold point out, our history of intervention has often hampered our relationships with the countries of Central and South America due to the ongoing way it has played out in Cuba. All of that changed when President Obama began the normalization process with Cuba and set up a new tone for the current Summit of the Americas this weekend in Panama.
"It opens the door for the U.S. government by removing this argument that has been a pretext and an issue that has been invoked, not only by Cuba but other countries in the region, as a distraction," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, the director of the Latin America program at Human Rights Watch, who attended a round-table discussion of civil society leaders with Mr. Obama on Friday.As a result, President Obama was able to say this to the people of Latin America:
"As you work for change, the United States will stand up alongside you every step of the way," he told Latin American leaders and civil society representatives at a forum on Friday. "The days in which our agenda in this hemisphere so often presumed that the United States could meddle with impunity - those days are past."