Friday, April 10, 2015

Obama, Castro Arrive in Panama for Summit of the Americas

Council on Foreign Relations
U.S. President Barack Obama arrived (AP) in Panama on Friday for the Summit of the Americas, amid a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations. This marks the first year that Cuba will participate in the summit and the first time Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro will meet face-to-face since agreeing to renew diplomatic ties last year. Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez met (BBC) on Thursday. The U.S. State Department recommended (Reuters) removing Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism Wednesday, however Obama says he will await a final recommendation from advisors before making a decision. Cuba's inclusion on the list has been a major sticking point on U.S.-Cuba negotiations.
"For all the real ways that South American countries in particular have diversified whom they interact with globally, the United States remains a key point of reference in the arenas of energy, scientific and technological innovation, and educational excellence. Now that the U.S. economy is on a slow rebound and China's growth rates have cooled, there is less talk in the region about power shifts from West to East," writes Cynthia J. Arnson in the Los Angeles Times.
"This opening up of relations with Cuba is huge for the summit in that yes, Obama can go and shake Raul Castro’s hand and be seen in the same room with him. But it’s also important on a symbolic level: One of the biggest irritants to U.S.-Latin America relations has been U.S.-Cuba policy. [The rapprochement] takes a lot of that animosity out of these potential relationships, allowing these countries to focus on other issues, such as trade, immigration, and security," says CFR's Shannon O'Neil.
"The handshake between Obama and Castro will represent a possible future for the hemisphere, while the opera buffa put on by the Venezuelan government will represent the past. This is a past in which leaders resorted to lies and manipulation to confuse and deceive their populations in order to remain in power. Maduro and his posse of regional allies (Argentina, Nicaragua, Ecuador, etc.) will remind us that they have not moved beyond that past," writes Moises Naim in the Atlantic