Positive Fifth Summit of The Americas
Despite the organizational chaos and the fact that there was no final statement due to the opposition of Bolivia, Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua and Dominica (all members of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas ALBA, plus Cuba), the 5th Summit of the Americas was a positive meeting.
The 5th Summit of the Americas began as expected, with problems of organization, a blackout and even problems with the press. In a way, the reunion seemed to be the continuation of the failed 4th Summit in Mar del Plata in 2005. On that bitter reunion, the main theme was to reproach USA and Bush.
The Summit held in Trinidad appeared to be the second chapter of that one in Argentina, four years ago. Most of the leaders of our continent are always more inclined to talk about what divides us, insted of what unites our hemisphere. Therefore, during the Summit in Trinidad Tobago, the accommodating attitude of Obama, Lula, Michelet and other hemispheric leaders were building a positive climate. After the bitter start of the 5th Summit, the voltage was bowing and began to breathe another atmosphere. In this, helped by the positive and open minded attitude of some presidents like President Obama, urging his colleagues to call him at the White House and speak directly with him. It is obvious to me that the Secretary Clinton does not seem a great facilitator of interamerican relationships . Therefore, the direct involvement of Obama with the regional leaders is important. The initial handshake of Obama and Chavez under the strain of the meeting, and somehow neutralized the aggressive Chavez. This gesture has been widely criticized in the U.S., but it is stupid to think that a President of a country can go to a diplomatic meeting with other presidents and refuses to greet them. It also helped the conciliatory attitudes of Presidents Lula and Michelet, President Arias and his own Chávez who decided not to be the cuban spokesperson at the meeting. Chavez only had a brief message of ten minutes (incredible!) . Ah … I forgot that Cnel. Chavez wanted to give history lessons to Obama and gave him the book “The Open Veins of Latin America” written by my compatriot Eduardo Galeano in the late sixties. The presidents of Argentina and Bolivia critize American diplomats intervention in the internal affairs of their countries
The cuban issue focused the first stage of this Summit. And it’s understandable. For decades, solidarity with the Castro´s was not so important because in the Américas, their leaders were mostly liberal or conservative. But in the last decade, the political tide has shifted to socialism in Latin America. In some countries, the Presidents are moderate socialists as in Chile and Uruguay, but in other the leaders are radical and vociferous socialists. But they all have a common ideological past, and the theme of confrontation between the U.S. and Cuba / Soviet Union was an important part in the lives of many of the current leaders of the Americas.
The Cuba theme is a thorn in interamerican relations. Now more than ever, due to solidarity between leftists. Many Presidents, whose past comes from the Marxist left, would now be pleased if hey can solve the Cuba issue. Therefore, in searching the best interest of inter-American relations, it is important what happened in the 5th Summit. Obama says now that the embargo on Cuba has not produced the results the US expected and that they want a dialogue / direct diplomacy with Cuba, if Cuba is prepared to follow words with deeds. The response of Raúl Castro, who is willing to talk about everything, is another interesting sign, but insufficient in my opinion. The dialogue has to be politically viable for both governments, and so concessions must come from both sides. The improvement of ties depends on Washington DC, but also from Havana. President Lula came to say that it will be difficult to keep Cuba out of the next Summit and took the applause of his peers when he asked Obama directly to lift the embargo on the island. Pragmatic as always, Obama declined to meet the expectations by saying ” that you can not expect a change in the overnight “in the relationship between Cuba and the U.S.,” but said that there will be a change in relations between the two governments.
For example, some opponents of Cubans on the island have called for a demonstration type “cacerolazos ” in Cuba next May 1st. If the communist security forces appear repressing the peaceful demonstration and taking prisoners to the organizers, it is obvious that will hinder any rapprochement.
Well , let me make a comment on the rest of the topics at the 5th Summit of the Americas.
On Friday the meeting between Obama and the leaders of Central American Integration System (SICA) addressed the need for immigration reform in the USA to protect the millions of immigrants from the region living there. It is proposed to increase the resources devoted to combating the drug trade and investment to shield the region from the global economic crisis. “He raised the possibility of supporting family reunification of migrants and host arrangements for agricultural workers and other areas that may be established in United States and reduce the number of deportees. Obama was very receptive,” said the president of Honduras , Manuel Zelaya. The U.S. president spoke for several minutes even with the Nicaraguan President, Daniel Ortega, one of its strongest opponents in the subcontinent. At the meeting, Obama sat between Ortega and the president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias.
On Saturday 18, Obama’s meeting with the countries of UNASUR topics like recapitalize the Inter American Development Bank (IADB) and greater flexibility in the disbursement of funds by the IMF. In this, the attitude of Canada is very important since it has decided to support doubling its contribution to the IADB (up to 4 billions). Obama wants to continue talking with the UNASUR. The Chilean President Bachelet presented the fundamentals of UNASUR. Defended the diversity within the bloc and called for a more horizontal relationship with the U.S. President Lula suggested that Obama sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to visit those countries in the region with which USA has more problems like Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Obama and several U.S. officials spoke with Uribe on the FTA, currently “frozen” in the U.S. Congress. The President of Venezuela Chavez said they will resume diplomatic relations with the U.S. naming the current Venezuelan ambassador to the OAS as Ambassador to the White House.
They also met the Latin American presidents together to resolve bilateral issues. For example, Presidents Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Peru’s Alan García, who agreed to give normal trade relations between both countries, despite the dispute over the maritime boundaries has been under trial before the international tribunals in The Hague.
Another novelty of the Summit was the proposal of the President of Ecuador to promote the idea of a unique system of regional equalization, with the sucre currency, which will make the countries that subscribe to “less dependent on the dollar”. Correa was the only president to publicly focused their interest in the economic crisis, apart from issues of democracy, human development and clean energy that were central to the agenda of the summit. The operation of the Sucre from 1 January 2010 is still confusing for many.
Also, Obama announced that USA brought together one hundred million dollars to increase the capacity of microfinance institutions for small businesses.
The initiative was coordinated by the Treasury Department, including the Multilateral Investment Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the Corporation for the United States Overseas Private Investment (OPIC) and the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC).
It was also much talk of climate change and drought, and Mexico made a environmental proposal to create a “Green Fund” and the hemispheric leaders called on USA to sign the Kyoto protocol.