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The Fifth Summit of the Americas

by maracatu Fri Mar 13th, 2009 at 05:35:34 AM EST

The Fifth Summit of the Americas will take place from 17 to 19 April in the land of one of the great leaders of the post colonial Caribbean, Dr. Eric Williams.  Of course, we citizens of the region will be very intent to hear what the first Black U.S. President (who will reportedly arrive with a delegation of 1,000 strong) places on his agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean.

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The current Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago in a recent address to his nation placed the event in the local national as well as regional context:

My Friends, when we proposed that Trinidad and Tobago host two major international meetings at this time, we knew we were taking a giant step forward for our country and also for our CARICOM (Caribbean Community) partners. It was clear to us that our nation and our regional neighbourhood would emerge as a stronger voice in the community of nations. For far too long, smaller nations have existed on the global periphery; for far too long there has been mere tokenism in recognition of this reality; and for far too long countries and regions like ours have not had sufficient success in shaping an all-inclusive global agenda. If Trinidad and Tobago is aspiring to be a developed country, it must start to shoulder the commensurate responsibility. And so, here we are today.

Manning also took due note of the critical international context:

We should also recognise that the Fifth Summit of the Americas takes place during a crucial time in world affairs, when the issues to be discussed have become more important than ever and when the urgency for concrete collaborative action is even greater than in the past. The world is today facing an unprecedented economic crisis from which no country or region is insulated.

The financial crisis of the past several months affects us all. The entire world is now in a period of transition. Major economies now face weakening economic conditions with adverse consequences for social progress looming on the horizon. The current economic crisis could deepen existing vulnerabilities in our countries or expose new ones. The agreements reached at the Fifth Summit will take these developments into account.

At the same time, we must also recognize that the pillars of the Summit theme - human prosperity, energy security and environmental sustainability - are at the core of our ability to weather the financial storm capably and successfully.

Nevertheless, it is the US role in the region which inevitably draws attention.  What will be the new focus of the Obama Administration?  As Council of Foreign Relation's Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin American Studies, Dr. Julia Sweig reports:

For the first time in nearly two centuries, the United States will find a Latin America that has unapologetically dropped the region's traditional deference to U.S. power. When President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrive for the Fifth Summit of the Americas in April, they will step into a political and diplomatic environment dramatically different from that confronting any of their predecessors. Understandably, the Obama administration will assert its disposition to forge partnerships, recover ground lost in recent years, and work toward the shared prosperity, social inclusion and common security agenda to which the region's governments have loosely agreed. But, with a global financial crisis and domestic recession constraining resources, not to mention a foreign-policy agenda that is all but saturated with other strategic priorities, the United States faces clear limitations on what it can achieve in its own neighborhood. Still, the forces of interdependence within the Americas remain as compelling as ever and require a strategy that advances U.S. interests in this new environment. As the countries of Latin America become stronger and more independent, the United States will face an uphill battle to make relationships work.

One of the things the United States apparently hopes will "bring it in from the cold" with regards to Latin America and the Caribbean is its openness to change in its relations with Cuba.  There has been speculation here at Daily Kos and elsewhere about recent changes instituted on that island nation that may point towards a new post-Castro era.  One might speculate that this could also be interpreted as a gesture toward the betterment of US-Cuban relations.  According to The Guardian,

President Barack Obama is poised to offer an olive branch to Cuba in an effort to repair the US's tattered reputation in Latin America.  The White House has moved to ease some travel and trade restrictions as a cautious first step towards better ties with Havana, raising hopes of an eventual lifting of the four-decade-old economic embargo. Several Bush-era controls are expected to be relaxed in the run-up to next month's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago to gild the president's regional debut and signal a new era of "Yankee" cooperation. (...) "The effect on ordinary Cubans will be fairly significant. It will improve things and be very welcome," said a western diplomat in Havana. The changes would reverse hardline Bush policies but not fundamentally alter relations between the superpower and the island, he added. "It just takes us back to the 1990s."

Some are hopeful, while others are not so sanguine.  David Jessop of the Caribbean Council cautions:

Having spent much of the last week in Washington, it is clear that there is a need to manage Caribbean popular expectation downwards about the substance of the summit and to look more specifically at the ways in which subsequent meetings will determine how the region's future relationship with the United States will develop.
The US relationship is for the most part positive if low key. While there are contentious issues such as the future of offshore financial centres and other vital questions relating to security, Haiti, Cuba, migration, debt and trade, to say nothing of the global economic crisis, relations between the US and the nations of Cariforum are normal and unremarkable.

One thing is for sure.  As Peter Hakim, President of the Inter-American Dialogue, expressed:

Two things will make a difference in Port of Spain, however. First, Barack Obama, not George Bush, is now president of the US. Following the invasion of Iraq, Bush became a target of growing Latin American hostility; he represented what was widely perceived as Washington's unilateralism, militarism, and disregard for international rules and institutions--and its indifference to Latin America.  In contrast, Obama's election was enthusiastically welcomed in the region, and viewed as a hopeful sign of the vitality US democracy

We await the Spring thaw.

Display:
I posted this over at Dkos, but there was absolutely no attention paid to it (the one soul that did respond had roots in our region).

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Wed Mar 11th, 2009 at 07:50:21 PM EST
Great diary and compendium of local views on the subject.  DKOS is an amazingly inward looking US blog where people have little sense of what is happening in the world outside.  

The rest of the World will not simply embrace Obama because he is not Bush, there will have to be substantive changes in US policies to make this happen.  Obama has already lost a key vote in the Senate because one senator with contra Cuban links was upset at even the slight easing of relations with Cuba.  The fact is that Washington (including many Democrat

s) is still stuck in a Reagan/Bush mind-set and it will be some time before Obama manages to push the Overton window back to even where it was under Clinton.  Those who have high hopes for a transformational US foreign policy under Obama, simply don't understand how constrained he is by a US `polity which is still stuck in the dark ages for the most part - and that includes many on DKos.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 08:25:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I couldn't agree more with you.  As I observe the events leading up to (and those scheduled following) the Fifth Summit, my suspicions grow.  A 1,000 person delegation is quite an impressive number.  Several US planes are going to have to disembark at Piarco airport.  I posted a comment here about a post summit event that piqued my suspicions.  Obama seems a Trojan horse for the oil companies.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 09:15:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup. At dkos, they'd rather talk about Rush Limbaugh. Totally useless. My last diary here had lots of excellent attention. Great, informed comment threads. ET really stepped up. The same diary got nowhere on dkos, even though it was rescued.

I will try to tie my focus, US foreign policy, to actions in Congress and post over at Congress Matters, which is an excellent, serious site. You might consider doing the same. Obama's relaxation of travel and trade restrictions on Cuba, and Menendez' (D-FL) reaction should give you a way in, because that's a valid backstory of the summit.

With Brazil poised to become another economic superpower, Latin America is about to seachange in its global importance. Nice diary, please follow it up.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 09:24:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the suggestion.  I tried to sign up at Congress matters, but something very strange happened.  While it is not strange that my user name was already taken, it was reported that my email ALSO belonged to a user:


Username is already in use.
Please try a different one.
swehtam@prw.net belongs to a registered user already.
All accounts must have a unique email address.

That is impossible!  Might someone be impersonating me?

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne

by maracatu on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 12:00:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
so can you sign up with a different name? or is it really invite only with a veneer of open access?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 12:10:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, OK, OK,

I clarified the whole affair.  I am apparently signed up at Congress Matters.  I assume that by virtue of belonging to Daily Kos, I was automatically signed up to this new site.  

Geeez!  I wish people would tell me these things!  I will transport my diary over there right now.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne

by maracatu on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 12:25:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your dkos username/password is carried over to Congress matters. No signup necessary. Which explains why both username and email are taken already.

I trust you'll crosspost here. ET is where you're going to get the good feedback and where good, thorough preparation is appreciated.

So. What's on the agenda at this summit? Is Evo Morales or Hugo Chavez going to throw a shoe at Obama? There could be some real stories out of this.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri Mar 13th, 2009 at 12:30:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I place my money on David Jessop:

...subsequent meetings will determine how the region's future relationship with the United States will develop.

One of the "subsequent" meetings is this one.  Previous to the summit, there is a private sector forum.

There is also the Inter-American Dialogue 10-point pragmatic Agenda for Latin America & Caribbean (pdf).  Inter-American Dialogue is led by Ricardo Lagos and Carla A. Hills and includes Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Enrique Iglesias, Billie Miller, Eduardo Stein, and Ernesto Zedillo. The Dialogue's 100 members come from the United States, Canada, and 20 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.


"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne

by maracatu on Fri Mar 13th, 2009 at 07:37:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
latin america is woefully under-reported on in europe, so i'm really happy we have an ET'er giving us the skinny.
it seems the most politically progressive corner of the globe right now.

thanks maracatu!


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 02:38:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
latin america is woefully under-reported on in europe, so i'm really happy we have an ET'er giving us the skinny.
it seems the most politically progressive corner of the globe right now.

thanks maracatu!


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 03:07:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry I didn't see it at Agent Orange ... but then, since I taught in Grenada for a couple of years, I could be accused of having ties to the region as well.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 15th, 2009 at 12:35:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We go through this little dance every time a new US president is elected.  Everybody goes running around proclaiming 'A New Era of Western Co-operation' is at hand  wherein 'The US Vows Not to be a Swaggering Bully.'

Doesn't happen.  The sad truth, it seems, US citizens:

  1.  Know little about the Caribbean, Latin, and South America (CLSA)

  2.  Could care even less

Now the HOPE this time is President Obama was elected by a stunningly large majority of the Latino¹ vote, who know something about conditions in their homelands, and care about US policy towards their homelands -- where their relatives still live and this will translate into a right-about face in US policy and actions.

Not impossible of course but highly unlikely as the Obama administration seems, at this point, to be focusing on domestic policy and issues.  However, noises from within the administration seem to indicate a change, of some kind, towards Cuba.    

For me, that's the key.  A substantial change in US policy in the CLSA region requires a change in policy towards Cuba and the amount of change is pretty adequately reflected in the quantity and quality of change.

¹  Casting the entirety of the CLSA into one category like that is ignorant.  But that's what they do.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Mar 13th, 2009 at 11:08:21 AM EST
We've been through enough to know what to expect.  Nevertheless, we do give thanks for small gestures.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Fri Mar 13th, 2009 at 10:19:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite sure you do.  ;-)

Reading the "small gesture" ...

So if San Salvador elects a pinko as President the Obama administration promises not to fund overt and covert opposition groups within San Salvador, conduct economic warfare, e.g., freeze monies held in the US, or invade.

Gosh.  How nice.

The sad thing is that it is an improvement over the normal course of events.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Mar 14th, 2009 at 02:23:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... high income nations do to "help" low income nations and the normal collateral of the action even when the high income nation thinks it really is helping, a promise not to interfere has got to be up there fairly near the top of the list.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 15th, 2009 at 12:38:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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