Colombia didn’t earn nary a mention in yesterday’s U.S. presidential debate on foreign policy, as Latin American countries were completely neglected by the two candidates except for a passing reference “rogue state” Venezuela.
In all, eighteen countries were mentioned by the pair, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, in a sparsely moderated back-and-forth that focused mainly on the Middle East.
While Colombia was shut out, a whole range of minor world players – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – earned at least one mention. Somalia, incredibly, was mentioned a whopping three as McCain brought it up to make a historical point.
The only Latin country to get air time in the debate, Venezuela, came up as a bookend on a larger topic.
“That means that we, as one of the biggest consumers of oil — 25 percent of the world’s oil — have to have an energy strategy not just to deal with Russia, but to deal with many of the rogue states we’ve talked about, Iran, Venezuela,” Obama said.
Obama also happened to be the only one to mention that rather large contiguous land mass that happens to lie just below the U.S. southern border, but again it came subordinate to another issue.
“In the meantime, we’ve got challenges, for example, with China, where we are borrowing billions of dollars. They now hold a trillion dollars’ worth of our debt. And they are active in countries like — in regions like Latin America, and Asia, and Africa. They are — the conspicuousness of their presence is only matched by our absence, because we’ve been focused on Iraq,” he said.
Granted, many major players went unmentioned or under-mentioned in the debate. China, holder of the lion’s share of U.S. debt and fast encroaching on the U.S. role as preeminent world power, came up just five times.
Similarly, traditional European allies France, England and Germany only came up once, and India, home to nearly a sixth of the world’s population, was not once mentioned.
Indeed, it seemed even foreign policy took a back seat in the discussion, as the first third of the debate was dominated by the impending financial bailout and its repercussions, before moderator Jim Lehrer of CBS’s News Hour stirred the conversation back to relations abroad.