Summit in Trinidad And Tobago Makes Good Impression In Latin America

By Dialogo
April 20, 2009

The Summit of the Americas, held this weekend in Trinidad and Tobago, made a good impression among participating Latin American leaders, particularly regarding the prospects for change in the relations with the U.S. that have been opened. However, reactions to the meeting were very diverse: Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva felt that this was the beginning of a new chapter in the history in the relation between both countries, while Peruvian President Alan García was skeptical, and former Cuban president Fidel Castro, whose country was the most notable absentee in the event, criticized it openly. Lula revealed today in his weekly radio program that he felt that a new relationship between the United States and the rest of the Americas began in Trinidad and Tobago, and attributed this opportunity to the election of Barack Obama as President of that country. "If the United States wishes so, they have the ability to open a new chapter in history, not by interfering, but by establishing a partnership and building positive things with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean," he said. He also said that the summit demonstrated that differences are resolved through dialogue, not violence. "The whole world expected a fight between Obama and (Hugo) Chávez, between Obama and Evo Morales, between Obama and Rafael Correa, between Obama and Daniel Ortega... What happened? People are acting in a civilized way, and have learned to discuss matters democratically and live with their differences," he said. The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, agreed today that the summit "was held in an atmosphere of great harmony, great cordiality," which he attributed to Obama’s role, and said that it "has taken significant steps toward building confidence in a new era in international relations between the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. " In addition, he was pleased that the presidential speeches during the meeting were based on clear, direct, profound, and functional dialogue. The Ecuadorian President’s only objection was the lack of strength he felt in the final statement, since "the summit went far beyond that document." The Dominican President, Leonel Fernández, also expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the Summit and the meeting he held with the presidents of Central America and Obama, a meeting he described as “positive, cordial, and friendly." In Central America, today’s newspaper editorials praised Obama’s new approach toward the region, among them “La Prensa Gráfica” in El Salvador, which announced "renewed relations between the United States and other countries in the hemisphere, especially with Latin America." Just as “La Prensa Gráfica,” in Central America today, newspaper editorials also praised the new style introduced by Obama, for whom they predict “renewed relations between the United States and other countries of the hemisphere, especially with Latin American.” In Guatemala, the newspaper “Prensa Libre” said that Obama seems "to have started in the right direction in his debut before his colleagues on the continent" and stressed promises he made, such as "establishing a new era of cooperation with Latin America." However, the Peruvian Alan García felt less optimistic about by the summit regarding relations with United States because, although he also praised Obama's personality and his willingness to listen, "the basic interests (of the U.S.) are still a priority," in reference to his views on democracy and free trade. "I do not think we can either promise or believe that the conflicting relation has been pushed aside, but at least we have a few months of a more fluid relationship," said the President in an interview published today in the newspaper El Comercio. Another of the skeptics was the President of Costa Rica, Óscar Arias, who said that, unlike in the G20 Summit, "where we achieved important, concrete things," in Trinidad and Tobago, other matters, "which were not very important," were discussed. "To be more specific, we all engaged in discussing the (final) statement, which was not very relevant and on which consensus was not achieved,” he lamented. The Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jaime Bermúdez, was also cautious about the new era in continental relations announced in the meeting, because, he said, "summits, like wedding parties, are the first celebration, but what is important is what follows day-to-day." Yesterday, other leaders expressed their satisfaction with the meeting, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who stated that what happened “was unthinkable a few years ago: that the U.S. government" would make a shift and would sit face to face with Latin America and the Caribbean as equals. Chavez stressed that they discussed “matters that, in other summits, it would be unthinkable to discuss," and attributed the success of the meeting as a personal triumph. "It seems that the changes that began in Venezuela in the last decade of the twentieth century have begun to reach North America," he said. Additionally, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega called the Summit of the Americas "a positive step" toward a new stage of relations between the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, his Honduran counterpart, Manuel Zelaya, noted that “although confrontation was expected, analysis took place,” and that both Latin America and United States left the meeting “with their heads held high.” The biggest criticism of the meeting in Trinidad and Tobago came from former Cuban President Fidel Castro, although in the summit the end of the of the United States embargo on the island and its exclusion from the Organization of American States (OAS) were major themes. The Cuban leader complained that the summit was "secret," since neither the representatives nor those who had been "excommunicated" could see what was dealt with. "We were told that the meeting would not be secret, but the show’s owners deprived us of that interesting intellectual exercise," he added in a report to official Cuban media. In addition, he found that Obama "was harsh and evasive in relation to the blockade (of Cuba by the U.S.) in his interview with the press."