If you were Obama, what would you do first?
Issued on: Modified:
From Kenya to Cuba, many of our Observers are watching Barack Obama's plentiful inauguration festivities today. We asked some of them what they'd do first as president. If I were Obama...
Image: Brian Ambrozy on Flickr.
From Kenya to Cuba, many of our Observers are watching Barack Obama's plentiful inauguration festivities today. We asked some of them what they'd do first as president.
Cuba: "If I were Obama I'd sit down at a table to dialogue with a new generation of Cuban politicians"
Yoani Sanchez runs the controversial Generacion Y blog from Havana. She was voted one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in 2008.
If I were Obama I'd sit down at a table to dialogue with a new generation of Cuban politicians, or at least sit down with the old ones until the young ones take over. One thing I'd start with - and something he's able to do by himself - is to eliminate the law against North Americans travelling to Cuba. Finishing the embargo will take longer and many discussions.
We have to discuss new migration treaties. For example, attempted immigrants to the US who are caught in the ocean are returned to Cuba, while those who manage to make it to land are accepted as immigrants. It's very controversial and called 'the law of dry feet'. It's luck that decides, not justice. That has to change.
It seems positive to me that Obama can help to eliminate the type of confrontation and antagonism which has served the Cuban government so well for 50 years, in particular to silence critics from within. On another front: in the country that Cuba sees as its arch-enemy, a black man has risen to the presidency, and years before such a thing could happen in Cuba. Given how much the Cuban government has always criticised the US for its race relations, it will lose more credibility with its people."
Israel: "I would very much like to lead a US-European front against Iran"
Amatzia Baram is professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Haifa.
If I were Obama, I'd firstly realise that the Iranians are just leading me on with 'negotiations'; playing for time in which to become a nuclear power. I could then, and would very much like to, lead a US-European front against Iran - in terms of very severe economic sanctions.
I'd also like to advance on a Syria - Israel peace agreement. And help too with a written agreement on Gaza and the Palestinian Authority. I'd join the Europeans in helping to rebuild Gaza through the Palestinian Authority rather than Hamas. If there's a new election in Gaza, Obama should ensure that Hamas is not allowed to run at all."
China: "If I were Obama I'd give China the confidence to change"
Zhang works for an environmental NGO in Chongqing. She prefers to remain anonymous.
If I were Obama I'd give China the confidence to change. I would help China to supervise food safety. I would keep a watchful eye on human rights in China, and instead of just accusing the authorities of a human rights disaster, I'd offer concrete examples of ways to change. I'd insist on using new strategies for energy issues and the possibility of bringing greener technology from America. I would encourage increased cultural exchanges between the two countries. There should be more chances for people to get to know each other. However, the Chinese government will not be happy to have the Obama administration dabbling in their affairs. Sadly, I don't think things are going to get much better between the US and Chinese governments."
Kenya: "If I were in Obama's place I would stop the American support for soft dictators across Africa"
Daudi Were is an entrepreneur and youth worker from Nairobi.
If I were in Obama's place I would stop the American support for soft dictators across Africa. These guys who have 'elections', like [Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt, Meles [Zenawi, PM] in Ethiopia, and then the African monarchs in places like Morocco and Tunisia - the list is endless.
I'd also like a bit more transparency with the nature between the US and Kenyan militaries - exactly what they're doing and who's paying for it. It would be good too if he came to visit. Clinton and Bush avoided Kenya on their trips to Africa. But it would be hard for this guy to!"
Iran: "I would avert war"
Ali is a student from Tehran. He prefers to remain anonymous.
As Obama I would avert war between Israel and Iran or the US and Iran, and I trust Obama as president to have that effect. I would also try to talk to the Iranian government - and I think he will - but sadly, the Iranians certainly do not want to talk to him. It's part of their ideology - they go against the American vision completely. I don't really believe there will be any negotiations between Obama and Ahmadinejad in the near future. I don't think Obama will have any effect on civil liberties inside the country either. In any case, he has too many challenges inside America to handle first. But one thing I do hope is that he does his best to prevent another catastrophe like Gaza happening."
Venezuela: "I would set up dialogue with Chavez"
Juliana Boersner is a social psychology professor and blogger from Caracas.
I would set up dialogue with [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez. There are more things that join them than separate them. I would like to see tensions lowered, accords made. I would like it to be a relationship of mutual respect. This wouldn't be about money. It would be about setting up better economic, technological and educational agreements, different from what there has been traditionally.
Also, the image I think Obama has of Latin America, from statements he made last year, comes from a very traditional perception that the United States has of Latin America, so if I were him I'd make an effort to become aware of all the countries in Latin America. Traditionally certain countries have always been privileged by the US: countries like Mexico, Brazil, perhaps Argentina. But Latin America is more unified now than it used to be; for example, he should take note of Mercosur, a free-trade alliance of many of the Latin American nations."