How much is the Secret Service scandal the embarrassment for Obama?

Secret Service agents and US military members are being investigated for alleged involvement with prostitutes in Cartagena, site of the Summit of the Americas summit. Read comments by W. Alex Sanchez, Research Fellow, Council on Hemispheric Affairs

I think first of all it’s a new embarrassment to organization the Summit of the Americas as a whole, which has been plagued with problems. For example for weeks there was fear that several presidents would not attend the meeting if Cuba was not invited. If Cuba’s Castro showed up to Cartagena, then probably Obama would not have attended as a protest instead. Colombia’s president Santos had to travel to Cuba to convince Castro not to attend to avoid what would have been an even bigger embarrassment.

In the end, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa did not attend the Summit (to protest that Cuba wasn’t present) and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez did not attend due to his health. I believe Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega chose not to attend either. So even before the Summit started, there have been problems with the organization.

Regarding the U.S. Secret Service scandal, it’s both an embarrassment for Washington but also for Bogota, which is hosting the Summit to begin with. Obviously the personal guard of a head of state is expected to act with the highest degrees of professionalism, especially when they are in another country. With that said, I’m wondering if the Republican party in the U.S. will try to make a big deal out of this incident. The Secret Service protects the U.S. government, including Congress, so I doubt the Republicans will want to go on TV to attack the same people that protects them on a daily basis, that could easily backfire.

I would add that the Secret Service embarrassment, while being a big deal for Washington, has not been as shocking for the rest of Latin America and the Caribbean, considering that we routinely have scandals regarding prostitution among high levels of our governments and security forces.

As part of my job I check all the time the major media outlets of the Western Hemisphere and, asides from the U.S. media, the scandal was barely reported, except for the basic facts. More focus has been  given to the impasse regarding Cuba, the Falklands/Malvinas issue, drug legalization, and, for example, Bolivian President Evo Morales saying that the U.S. (by not pronouncing itself regarding Cuba and the Falklands) is “disintegrating South America and the Caribbean.”


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