• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
One thing the Obama administration has done correct in this hemisphere is a major increase in engaging Brazil. Just this month, the assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere gave a speech on US-Brazil relations, Deputy Secretary Burns visited Rio, and the undersecretary for arms control was in Brazil to discuss that specific topic. There is cooperation on a number of economic, development, and security issues that rarely makes the media but takes up a lot of time and energy for both countries.
Could more be done? Absolutely. Should we do more to avoid embarrassing contract screwups right before major presidential visits? Probably.
That said, President Obama's engagement with Brazil has gone beyond any previous president. He has welcomed Brazil as a rising global power and treated it as an equal in major international negotiations.
If you're looking for one big difference between President Obama and Governor Romney on Latin America policy, US-Brazil relations may be it. The Romney foreign policy white paper contains zero references to Brazil and it has not been mentioned in any GOP debate. Obama discussed the importance of Brazil during the 2008 campaign and has more than delivered on engaging with the country. It's unclear right now whether a Republican administration would do the same. If the Republicans win this year, my opinion is that it's likely there would be a backsliding on US-Brazil relations as their priorities shifted to other concerns like Venezuela and Iran.
As an analyst and consultant, I often stress that understanding and engaging with Brazil is far more important to the hemisphere than Cuba or Venezuela or Colombia. That should be obvious given the population and economic strength of the country, but you wouldn't know it by looking at the US political debate or most commentary on the region.