No More Latin America Meddling Says President Obama

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US President Barack Obama has said that his country’s days of meddling in the affairs of Latin America countries has come to an end while speaking at the 7th Summit of the Americans, held in Panama City.

Mr Obama had earlier shook hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro at the opening ceremony, their first meeting since a December encounter.  Historic formal talks are due to take place on Saturday but the work could be overshadowed by tensions between the US and Venezuela.

Problems

Mr Obama said to civil society leaders in Panama City that the days when the US would meddle with impunity in the hemisphere were past and they could no longer presume their agenda could be implemented.

In the past, the Summit of the Americas has brought together the leaders from North, Central and South America and has seen the US receive criticism for its embargo of Cuba and its objection against Cuba having any part.

This, the seventh summit, will see the first time that Cuba will attend and much of the focus will be on the interactions between the former foes.  The two leaders are also due to meet on Saturday, the first formal encounter between leaders of the US and Cuba for more than fifty years.

Changes

Ahead of the summit, the president had stressed he was hoping to thaw relations with Cuba and see an improvement in the Cuban people’s lives.  He added that this would come not through imposition by the US but with the ‘talent, ingenuity and aspiration and a conversation among Cubans from all walks of life’ so they can increase their own prosperity.

The speech came the day after the State Department recommended that Cuba be removed from the list of countries that the US sees as sponsoring terrorism.  This presence stands as one of the major hurdles to closer ties between the two countries.

The two leaders were also present for the inauguration ceremony along with representatives of the other 35 nations.  The ceremony saw a marching band along with children in national dress of the participating countries waving flags.

Venezuela

As well as Cuba, some of the president’s words were aimed at Venezuela, whose president Nicolas Maduro has accused the US of meddling in his country and even fomenting a coup against his government.

He openly distrusts the US president and this was increased when Mr Obama signed an executive order last month declaring the country a national security threat.  US officials have added that the wording was ‘completely pro-forma’ but the damage had been done.

Not only did it incense Mr Maduro but a number of Latin American leaders who are sensitive to what they see as imperialist rhetoric from the US.  The whole tone of the summit could depend on whether Mr Obama’s latest assurances on the matter are accepted by Mr Maduro and his left-wing allies.


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