Just to clarify. This is not the type of translation Machetera could normally be bothered to make, and she found the work somewhat revolting. First of all, Jorge Ramos writes like a breathless reporter for a Junior League newsletter, but apparently Machetera’s not the first to notice this. Still, it’s an appalling statement about the intellectual poverty of U.S. media, that this man could be considered one of the “25 most influential Hispanics in the United States.”
Second of all, the mainstream media have enough translators who make a lot more money than Machetera does, to do this kind of thing. But here’s the interesting part. They didn’t. Since Machetera’s vast and dedicated readership are an inquiring bunch, one of her readers asked, “Did Obama really say what I think he said, partway through that interview?” The answer is yes. He did. Israel’s new best friend announced not only that Venezuela is a manageable threat but it’s time for sanctions.
Just in case Obama doesn’t make the presidency, they can probably use him over at the CIA desk next to Brian Latell, who like Obama has never been to Cuba (but unlike Obama probably has at least been to Cancun), and also like Obama loves to speculate on things he knows absolutely nothing about, such as the state of Fidel’s health.
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Jorge Ramos – El Mercurio
DENVER – Barack Obama arrived in no hurry and with the absolute conviction that he can become the first African-American president in the history of the United States.
I had tested him on two prior occasions, during the presidential debates, and therefore the impression he gave me of being imperturbable, centered, with an internal equilibrium, no longer surprised me.
He always gives the impression that before speaking, he thinks things over a fraction of a second longer than all the other politicians.
There are politicians who hide their weaknesses and pretend to appear stronger than they are. Obama, no. He accepts his vulnerabilities. This quality is what allows him to connect with the people and the voters, especially the youngest ones.
When I asked him if his wife, Michelle, believed that he was running a risk in the electoral campaign, he acknowledged without hesitation the power she has over him. “(Obviously I think that at first,) she’d have vetoed my entry in this presidential contest,” he told me. “I think everyone is worried at the beginning, but I believe that the Secret Service protection is excellent.”
The objective of this 20 minute interview with the candidate was to see how much he knew about Hispanics in the United States and throughout Latin America. And without a doubt, Obama’s done his homework.
He stated that one of the first things he would change should he arrive at the White House would be the subject of raids and deportations of undocumented immigrants.
“I don’t believe that apprehending a mother, separating her from her child and deporting her, without taking the consequences into account, is the North American way of doing things,” he said.
Obama didn’t want to commit himself, as Hillary Clinton proposed, to sending an immigration reform bill to Congress during his first 100 days in the White House. It’s not realistic when he first has to resolve the war in Iraq and the current economic crisis. However, he indicated, “What I can guarantee is an immigration reform proposal within the first year.”
Obama has never been to Latin America in his 46 years. He doesn’t support the Free Trade Agreement that the United States and Colombia have negotiated, and perhaps he would suspend or renegotiate the trade agreement that has existed since 1994 with Mexico. But his foreign policy for the region goes much farther. “There’s a natural connection between the United States and Latin America,” he said.
“When the war in Iraq is finished we may return to focus our attention (on Latin America),” he emphasized. And then he pulled out a long list of things that he wanted to do in order to not forget the region (as President George Bush did after September 11th, 2001).
“I would initiate discussions with our enemies in Cuba and Venezuela…I would cancel the travel restrictions for those who have family in Cuba…I want to join with countries like Brazil to look for cleaner forms of energy…I will approve the Free Trade Agreement with Peru, but I oppose that of Colombia until I have confidence that union leaders are not being killed there…this kind of paramilitary activity has to stop,” said Barack Obama.
And Hugo Chávez? Is he a threat to the national security of the United States and the rest of the continent, I asked?
“Yes, I believe he’s a threat, but a manageable one,” he answered. “We know for example, that he may have been involved in supporting the FARC, harming a neighbor. This is not the kind of neighbor we want. I believe that it’s important, through the Organization of American States (OAS) or the United Nations, to initiate sanctions that say that this behavior is unacceptable. What I’ve said is that we should have direct diplomacy with Venezuela and all the countries in the world.”
Obama studied Spanish in high school and two years in college. “My Spanish used to be okay,” he acknowledged. But now he’s almost completely forgotten it. “Yo hablo un poquito español, pero no es very good,” he dared to say in both languages.
During his recent speech about Cuba, the only Spanish word he said was “libertad” [freedom]. And with the aid of a teleprompter he recorded a commercial in Spanish for Puerto Rico.
In his presentations the phrase “Si, se puede” [Yes, we can] is dropped. But Obama is aware that speaking a few words in bad Spanish is not enough to gain the ten million Latino votes in the November presidential elections and the goodwill of 550 million Latin Americans.
And in order to demonstrate that he would be a president of action, he wants to make his first trip to Latin America very soon: “I’d love to go…before November.”
It would be his first step towards the south.
“There are areas in which a wall makes sense.”
The scarce, inefficient and improvised efforts of Obama’s campaign among Hispanics would explain the the meager results for the senator among these voters. In fact, Senator Hillary Clinton obtained more Latino votes than he did during the primaries, in all states. But some believe that this is a result of the tension that has existed between African-Americans and Latinos, for decades.
“I think it just has to do with the fact that Latinos know me less well than they know Senator Clinton,” he explained. The don’t know, he added, that he has worked with the Latino community in Chicago, that he supported efforts to legalize those without documents and improve educational programs.
But what many do know is that, as a senator, he voted in favor of building a 700 mile fence on the border with Mexico, to thwart illegal immigration.
If he becomes president, would he stop the wall’s construction?
“I want to know first if it’s working…”
But does a wall work?
“I still don’t know.”
But you already voted to build a wall.
“I understand. I voted to begin construction of a wall in certain areas along the border. I believe that there are areas where it makes sense and can save lives, if we prevent people from crossing desert areas that are very dangerous.” (It’s calculated that some 400 people die on this border every year.)
Despite the fact that his declarations about Venezuela and Cuba (“I doubt that Fidel wrote his most recent editorial. I believe he’s too sick to do it.”) are those which have generated the most news, the relationship with Mexico is the first that Obama wants to repair. “It’s very important to approach the Mexican government, in a way that this administration (that of George W. Bush) hasn’t done, in order to discover what they need on the other side of the border to promote economic development and job creation,” he commented. “More work there means less undocumented people coming to the United States,” he emphasized.
So far this year, more than a thousand people have died in Mexico as a consequence of the war between the drug cartels. Obama knows this and believes that consumption in the United States is, also, part of the problem. “I would not legalize marijuana,” he said, “but yes, I think we have to reduce the quantity (of drugs) in the United States.”
Jorge Ramos is the Mexican anchor of Noticiero Univisión, which is seen in the United States and 13 countries of Latin America. The Mexican journalist has won several Emmy awards and has written six books, among them “The Other Face of America,” “Crossing Borders,” “The Latin Wave,” “Dying in the Attempt,” and most recently, “The Gift of Time.” He was named by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States.