Citizens around world hail Obama victory

LONDON -- Around the world Wednesday, many people saw in Barack Obama a man who looked more like them than any other U.S. president — and who offered a ray of hope during a time of global economic crisis.

"He comes from roots that have always been marginalized, and so have we," said Celina Gonzalez Rodriguez, 86, a housewife sitting in a park in Mexico City.

"So I'm hoping he will be friendlier toward us," she said.

For Tao Qingcai, a taxi driver half a world away in Beijing, Obama's achievement held up a mirror to his own country's shortcomings.

"It could reduce racial prejudice in the USA," Tao said. "But I cannot see a minority becoming leader of China. We don't have real democracy here."

Many of the conversations in Europe and Asia sounded a lot like those in the USA. "It's a good thing to show this can happen — especially to show kids that if they really work hard, they can get to the top, too," said Paul Aciuli, 33, an Australian living in London.

Perhaps nowhere was the news greeted as enthusiastically as in Kenya, the birthplace of Obama's late father. His Kenyan relatives and others danced and partied all night, and the president declared a national holiday.

In the western village of Kogelo, a group of exuberant residents picked up the president-elect's half brother Malik and carried him through the village. "Unbelievable!" Malik Obama shouted, leading the family in chanting, "Obama's coming, make way!"

South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, wrote in a congratulatory letter to Obama, "Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place."

Elsewhere, the celebration turned quickly to questions about how Obama would handle the financial crisis sweeping the globe.

Yasuhiko Mizutani, a Japanese owner of a toy factory in southern China, said he had "high expectations" that Obama could salvage the U.S. economy before it drags Asia into recession. "If something goes wrong with America, the Japanese economy will crash."

Others said they will watch closely to see how much U.S. foreign policy will change.

In Pakistan, college student Abid Ali said he expected Obama to show more sympathy toward Muslims and soften the Bush administration's approach to fighting terrorism. "Once again, Pakistani people have raised their hopes," he said.

In Russia, where ties with the United States have been strained since this summer's war with Georgia, President Dmitry Medvedev said he hoped Obama would "make a choice in favor of fully fledged reactions."

During his annual address to Parliament, Medvedev issued Obama a stern warning. He vowed to deploy missiles on Russia's western border if a U.S. anti-missile system is deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic as President Bush planned.

Regular antagonists of Washington took a break, if just for a day. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who has called Bush a "donkey" and a "drunkard," welcomed "the historic election of a person of African origins."

Chávez even took some credit for Obama's win, attributing it in part to "the era of change that has been developing" in Venezuela.

Contributing: USA TODAY correspondents around the world, the Associated Press •Reaction at home, 1A