Obama looks to Americas summit to lift Latino support

Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:28pm GMT

By Laura MacInnis and Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama takes his re-election campaign to Colombia this weekend, using the Summit of the Americas as a platform to tout his trade record and convince millions of Hispanic voters back home he cares about the region.

Spending time with leaders in Cartagena, Colombia, is a way for Obama to fight an impression he has neglected Latin America since taking office in 2009 to focus instead on hot spots like Afghanistan, Libya and the Middle East.

Obama needs the support of Latino voters to win key states like Arizona, Colorado and Florida in the November 6 vote. He will stop in Florida, whose large Hispanic population may be pivotal to his prospects, on the way to the summit on Friday to talk up trade opportunities with Latin America.

Though the Democratic president is polling well ahead of Republicans with Latino voters, many have been disappointed by his failure to deliver on a campaign promise for immigration reform and by record deportation numbers during his presidency.

The Obama administration's push to deepen economic ties with Asia has further frustrated many Hispanics who would have liked the Obama White House to pay more attention to Latin America.

"It makes it seem as if it doesn't have a focus for the Americas," said Stephen Johnson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

The Colombia visit will be Obama's fourth trip to Latin America as president. He will also go to Mexico in June for a Group of 20 leaders' summit.


Colombian attorney Silvio Carrasquilla cleans a poster of U.S. President Barack Obama and his family which he hung on a wall inside his home in Turbaco, near Cartagena, April 11, 2012. Carrasquilla, Turbaco's former mayor who considers himself Colombia's number one Obama fan, is sprucing up his house by painting it the red, white and blue of the U.S. flag to celebrate Obama's arrival in Cartagena for the VI Summit of the Americas on Friday. REUTERS/Joaquin Sarmiento
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