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The Senate loses a Latin America policy expert

Today, Sen. Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Conn., announced that will not seek re-election this year. Dodd, suffering from a low approval rating and bashed for his perceived closeness with fat-cat bankers, wasn't expected to win a sixth term.

Dodd was primarily known as a domestic policy guy, and a powerful one at that -- a longtime Hill veteran, the head of the Senate Banking Committee, and at the center of the financial regulations storm.

But Dodd was also an important foreign policy thinker -- especially regarding Latin America. In the 1970s, just out of college, Dodd served with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. Once on the Hill, he maintained an interest in the region, becoming one of the loudest progressive voices regarding policy for the countries he always insisted were not "America's backyard" but "America's neighborhood." Back in the 1980s, he -- along with Sens. John Kerry and Tom Harkin -- spoke out against the Reagan administration's military and financial support of anticommunist groups, like the contras in Nicaragua. He later advocated for taking a soft-glove approach with countries like Cuba and Venezuela. (This won him plenty of opprobrium from the right, particularly during the Bush administrations.) More recently, he has won plaudits for his vocal support of policies to aid the human-rights disaster in Darfur. 

As for Dodd's seat's future -- the Connecticut Democratic and Republican primaries are upcoming. Richard Blumenthal, the state's very popular attorney general, is expected to gain the Dem nod and Dodd's seat in the Senate. He'll likely face Republican Linda McMahon, the head of the WWE wrestling federation. No word yet on her views on Chavez.

STR/AFP/Getty Images

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