President Obama is signaling a new era of diplomacy with two Latin American nations long considered troublesome for American interests, namely Venezuela and Cuba. President Obama has called for open dialogue with Cuba and has said that "The policy that we've had in place for 50 years hasn't worked the way we want it to. The Cuban people are not free." Then Mr. Obama engaged with Mr. Chavez in a seemingly friendly way, despite criticizing Chavez's policies and anti-U.S. rhetoric. While some critics have accused Mr. Obama of coddling Venezuela, he dismissed such accusations.
But what are the pros and cons of engagement with these two countries, which were the focus of a very different kind of diplomacy under President Bush? To help answer these questions, we turn to former Ambassador Otto Reich, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela for President Reagan and a former senior Special Envoy and diplomat under Reagan and both G.W. and G.H.W. Bush administrations.