Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Right Man For Latam?

No one, it seems, is neutral on the subject of Otto Reich. To his partisans in the Republican Party and the Cuban-American exile community, the recently installed U.S. assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs brings a wealth of experience to his new job. Raised in a lower-middle-income Havana household, educated at Georgetown University, Reich is comfortable in both the English-speaking and Hispanic cultures. He spent a total of six years living in Panama and Venezuela and has been engaged directly with Latin America in either the public or the private sectors since 1976. 'He knows the hemisphere very well, and he's the perfect person [for] Latin America,' says Cuban-American Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart. Reich's critics view him rather differently--as an unreconstructed cold warrior who will foster friction in the region. 'Otto Reich is not qualified for the post,' U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd wrote in a letter to The Wall Street Journal last fall. 'Mr. Reich lacks good management skills, sound judgment, appropriate sensitivity to potential conflicts of interest, the confidence of other governments in the region and the ability to bridge partisan divisions in Congress.'

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