Americas summit marks new phase in regional ties

April 21st, 2009 - 12:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Port-of-Spain, April 21 (EFE) The fifth Summit of the Americas has marked a new phase in the relationship between US and Latin America.
The expectations of a stormy summit fell by the wayside, in part because of astute diplomatic work and the display of charm by US President Barack Obama, who managed to receive praise even from the leaders most hostile to Washington.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said at the Summit that he felt “ashamed” to attend the summit, and he and his allies in the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America (ALBA), such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Dominican Republic, announced they would veto the final summit draft in protest over the absence of Cuba at the gathering.

However, the final declaration was signed by Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning in the name of all participants and there were no vetoes, but rather only the expression of some reservations by Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina over matters as diverse as Cuba, biofuels and the world economic crisis.

Organisation of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza said: “Those who thought that this was going to be a shouting match have come away disappointed. A new, very positive spirit has been noted.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he was leaving Port-of-Spain “extremely surprised” by the positive things that occurred at the meeting given that the US and other countries of the hemisphere had created “a new way of overcoming differences and discussing them maturely”.

But more significant were the words of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the promoter of ALBA and paladin of anti-Americanism across the Americas: “Everything ended as it should have, the meeting was a complete success that led to a collection of tacit commitments and others that were expressly defined.”

“Of all the summits that I’ve attended in this decade, this is, without doubt, the most successful, the one that opened the doors to a new era of rationality among all the countries,” said Chavez in commenting on the “new era” announced by Obama at the start of the summit last Friday.

In a sign of that new phase, Chavez announced that he will once again fill the post of ambassador to Washington, tapping Caracas’ OAS envoy Roy Chaderton for the post.

The hostility of the ALBA countries toward the US also seemed to lose steam after Obama’s meeting with his Central American counterparts at the summit.

“The entire summit has had an atmosphere of very fraternal dialogue and that pleases Latin Americans. We are no longer having the strong clashes which were there before. Obama’s behaviour is totally different; more openness, more dialogue and more respect. There are good prospects (because) the US changed with Obama,” Honduras President Manuel Zelaya said.

Also, the OAS contributed to lay to rest the controversy about the absence of Cuba when OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza announced that he will propose the organisation to discuss Cuba’s expulsion from the group in 1962 in its upcoming meeting in June and its likely return under its fold.

Before leaving Port-of-Spain Obama said at a press conference that a new era of cooperation with Latin America had been established that will go beyond the traditional military and anti-drug collaboration.

He said the meeting had served to establish a new phase of respect toward sovereign and democratic countries in the hemisphere, despite the differences of opinion that may exist.

The place for the next Summit of the Americas has not yet been finalised.

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