A few months ago, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet called herself “Chile’s Obama”. She was also a first: the first woman president, promising change, like Obama, and with her victory, she has been telling women "Yes, we can."
Presidents Michelle Bachelet and Barack Obama during the Unasur meeting Saturday morning. (Courtesy of the Presidency of the Republic of Chile)
Days after assuming the presidency, Barack Obama called Bachelet to invite her to Washington. But only Saturday morning was she able to sit down next to her other self during the meeting of the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, of which she is temporary president.
She said the meeting was great, and that all the South American presidents participating showed an excellent disposition towards what she called this “first step in building trust in the relationship between the United States and South America”.
“We’ve had a frank conversation, well-intentioned on behalf of all the presidents. We welcome President Obama’s comments yesterday, expressing the intention of the United States to establish a relationship of mutual respect,” said Bachelet.
More than environment, sustainable development and economic crisis, the summit so far has been all about a left-leaning Latin America casting a wary eye on the new representative of its traditional nemesis. One that is now offering dialogue, mutual respect and a relationship among equals, and that Latin Americans seem to be willing to give a chance.
Symbolic was Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's gift to Obama: Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano’s famed book “The Open Veins of Latin America”, which lays out centuries of foreign intervention and pillage in Latin America. But just as symbolic were their warm handshakes and big smiles.