Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Latin American and Caribbean Expectations on Cuba

Latin Leaders Will Push Obama to End Cuban Embargo at Summit


April 13 (Bloomberg) -- When Barack Obama arrives at the fifth Summit of the Americas this week, Cuba will be at the heart of the U.S. relationship with the rest of the hemisphere, exactly as it has been for half a century.

While Latin American leaders split on many issues, they agree that Obama should lift the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. From Venezuelan socialist Hugo Chavez to Mexico’s pro- business Felipe Calderon, leaders view a change in policy toward Cuba as a starting point for reviving U.S. relations with the region, which are at their lowest point in two decades.

Obama, born six months before President John F. Kennedy imposed the embargo, isn’t prepared to support ending it. Instead, he will likely try to satisfy the leaders at the April 17-19 summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, with less ambitious steps -- such as repealing restrictions on family visits and remittances to Cuba that were imposed by former President George W. Bush.

That would mesh with his stated goal of changing the perception of “U.S. arrogance” that he attributed to his predecessor in his sole policy speech on the region last May.

“All of Latin America and the Caribbean are awaiting a change in policy toward Cuba,” Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Washington-based Organization of American States, said in an interview. “They value what Obama has promised, but they want more.”