The White House announced today that President Obama called Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa to congratulate him on his recent re-election and “to commend the people of Ecuador for their commitment to democracy.”
I’ve lauded Obama before for avoiding picking fights with Latin American populist leaders such as Correa. But I think that trying to befriend them sends the wrong signal to defenders of democratic institutions throughout the region. After all, a year ago Correa confessed that he wasn’t a democrat if that represented allowing the opposition to participate in the debate for a new constitution. More recently, he stated (in Spanish) that he preferred “a thousand times” to be a friend of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez than be an ally of the United States.
Obama should pick his friends in Latin America more carefully.