For very good reasons, news that U.S. President Barack Obama would make a stop in Cuba on his upcoming tour of Latin America sent diplomatic circles spinning. Calvin Coolidge, who arrived in a battleship in Havana’s harbor in 1928 to attend the Pan-American Conference, was the last American president to visit the island. Obama’s decision to travel to Cuba also shows just how seriously his administration is taking the ongoing rapprochement with Havana that began just last year and that aims to end the 57-year-old freeze in U.S.-Cuban relations triggered by Fidel Castro’s 1959 communist takeover.
Less noticed is that Obama’s Latin American tour will also take him to Argentina, another country with which Washington is hoping for a reset. No U.S. president has set foot in Argentina since 2005, when George W. Bush attended the Summit of the Americas, setting off riots all over the country. So why has Washington kept its distance from one of Latin America’s most important nations, and why is now the right time for a change in policy? The answer to both questions is far from self-evident.
There is no more vibrant democracy in Latin America than Argentina. In fact, with its 1983 transition from military dictatorship to democracy, the country pioneered the wave of democratization that has transformed the politics of the region. Since then, Argentina has become famous around the world for its human rights advances. In 1985, the old military junta was put on trial for crimes against humanity, which was the first trial of its kind since the Nazi regime was prosecuted at the end of World War II during the Nuremberg Tribunal. In 2010, Argentina legalized same-sex marriage and adoption, becoming the global South’s most prominent symbol of LGBT equality.
The United States also enjoys a healthy and favorable economic relationship with Argentina, befitting the country’s rank as the second-largest economy in South America, after Brazil, and a member of the G-20. In 2014, the United
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