Readers here will know that I'm no fan of Flores, and would not echo the characterization of him as "reform-minded." I'm not sure we needed the Bush speech, however, for Latin Americans to go for either the Mexican or Chilean candidates for OAS chief. With any luck, the State Department's January 5th endorsement of Flores ("a consensus candidate from Central America, preferably a former president") will be the kiss of death.
''It's going to produce a defensive reaction in the region,'' a well-placed Republican who describes himself as a ''pragmatic hawk'' told me after Bush's inaugural speech. "It will make any of our policy proposals suspect.''
As an example, my pragmatic Republican source said it will be more difficult for the Bush administration to get Latin American support for its candidate for secretary general of the 34-country Organization of American States, former Salvadoran President Francisco Flores.
Flores, a modern-minded reformer, is perceived by many Latin American countries as too close to the Bush administration. His adversaries will now argue that the new U.S. doctrine makes it imperative to have an OAS chief who can stand up to Washington.
FYI, the swing voters in this horse race seem to be the Caribbean countries. The actual vote is not until May/June, but we might know more about who the front-runner is within a month or so.