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Cuba and the Summits of the Americas

September 5, 2014

by Richard E. Feinberg

If the U.S. wants to keep the Summit of the Americas process on track and regain some measure of influence in the hemisphere, it will have to change its Cuba policy, pronto. Reframing our policy and saving the Summit process isn’t as tough as it seems; it just takes leadership.

In coming months, the United States is going to face a tough choice: either alter its policy toward Cuba or face the virtual collapse of its diplomacy toward Latin America. The upcoming Summit of the Americas, the seventh meeting of democratically elected heads of state throughout the Americas, due to  convene in April 2015 in Panama, will force the Obama administration to choose between its instincts to reset Cuba policy to coincide more closely with hemispheric opinion and its fears of a domestic political backlash.

During her visit to Washington on September 2, Panama’s vice president, Isabel Saint Malo, indicated her intention to invite Cuba to the Summit, but public U.S. statements failed to commit President Obama’s attendance.

The periodic inter-American summits have become more important than ever for U.S. regional diplomacy, but our Latin American neighbors have said—firmly and unanimously—that unless Cuba is invited, their chairs will be empty. At the same time, the alarming specter of photos of Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro conversing around the same table, apparently as equals, will set off a political reaction among the Cuban-American hardliners, Democrats and Republicans alike—the thought of which gives the White House politicos heartburn.

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Tags: Summit of the Americas, Cuba-U.S. relations, Panama

La civilización del espectáculo de las prostitutas en Cartagena

April 23, 2012

by Jenny Manrique

Dice el Nobel de Literatura Mario Vargas Llosa, en su último libro, el primero después de ganarse el prestigioso galardón, que asistimos a la “civilización del espectáculo.” Su argumento es que cada vez más la cultura se confunde entre lo banal y lo espectacular y que temas como el sexo y la vida privada hacen más que nunca parte de la esfera de lo público. Aunque la discusión de lo mediáticamente importante puede ser de largo aliento, lo innegable es que un espectáculo mediáticamente taquillero en la semana poscumbre de las Américas, ha sido el de los agentes del Servicio Secreto que hacían parte del cuerpo de seguridad del Presidente Barack Obama, quienes durante su visita a Cartagena pagaron servicios sexuales a prostitutas. O muchachas prepago, o damas de compañía como prefirió llamarlas el alcalde de Cartagena, Campo Elías Terán, quien consideró “injusto” llamarlas prostitutas—y puntualizó indignado que el puerto “no es el Cabaret de Suramérica.”

Ya a estas alturas sabemos mucho de ellas: Cuántas eran (20); quién es la mujer que pidió $800 por sus servicios y le pagaron $30 (Dania), razón por la cual desató el escándalo (vimos su rostro y por supuesto su cuerpo para poder hacer la valoración pertinente sobre si su reclamo era legítimo); y los bares donde trabajaban, burdeles cuya clientela aumentará solo por la morbosa curiosidad.  Los medios corrieron por la exclusiva como si se tratara de la mismísima “garganta profunda,” y hasta hay rumores de que el New York Times le pagó para que no le hablara a ninguna otra publicación.

El periodista que destapó el escándalo en el Washington Post, Ronald Kessler, es más famoso aún, como también algunos de los 12 agentes que participaron en tamaño desliz (y de paso su familia sometida a escarnio público), cuyas fotos en Facebook coqueteando con otras mujeres ya son de dominio público, y cuyas cabezas rodarán dentro de poco, quizá junto a la de Mark Sullivan, director de la agencia que le cuida la espalda a uno de los hombres más custodiados del mundo.

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Tags: Summit of the Americas, Colombia

A Canadian Perspective on Cuba and the Summit

April 19, 2012

by John Parisella

Last weekend’s Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, ended on a discordant note with no final communiqué outlining a joint statement on the conference’s outcome. The refusal by the United States and Canada to accept Cuba at the next Summit created a schism with their Latin American and Caribbean partners who supported Cuba’s inclusion, although President Obama and Prime Minister Harper were acting in a manner consistent with previous positions regarding Cuba‘s participation.  The lack of a communiqué, however, should not be seen as a failure but rather as a time to reflect.

The U.S. embargo of Cuba is essentially a relic of the Cold War period when Fidel Castro embraced the Soviet bloc, and later, when the world teetered on the brink of a nuclear confrontation during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Clearly, in this presidential cycle with Florida remaining a swing state and with its fiercely anti- Castro Cuban population, Obama had little room to maneuver. Admittedly, there is no appetite in both the Democratic and Republican parties to turn Cuba into a political issue in the short term.

Despite this predictable outcome, it is reasonable to hope that both the U.S. and Canada take a fresh look at Cuba and the post-Castro period. Both Castro brothers are aging and communism is no longer a major geopolitical factor on the global stage. Latin American countries have emerging economies with increasingly stable democracies wanting to reach out with trade overtures. In this era of the Internet and globalization, it is unlikely that the iron fist of the Castro legacy will be able to maintain its grip for years to come. In any case, the embargo has not achieved its goal. Why not explore the option of engagement?

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Tags: Summit of the Americas, Canada, Cuba, Organization of American States, Stephen Harper, Barack Obama

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

April 18, 2012

by AS-COA Online

From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.

Sign up to receive the Weekly Roundup via email.

Summit Advances Cooperation Despite Lack of Declaration

The Sixth Summit of the Americas took place in Cartagena, Colombia over the weekend. Despite the lack of a final declaration due to disagreement over Cuba’s future participation and hemispheric recognition of Argentina’s Falklands claim, members signed a number of bilateral pacts on regional integration, development, and cooperation. Among these were Connecting the Americas 2022, which will increase electricity and telecommunications access throughout the hemisphere, as well as the Small Business Network of the Americas, aimed at promoting small businesses. Members debated drug policy at the insistence of Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina, and agreed to have the Organization of American States evaluate current policy and seek more effective solutions. The participating heads of state heeded a Mexican proposal for an Inter-American System against Organized Crime, an effort to coordinate security policy in the hemisphere. Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa boycotted the summit due to Cuba’s absence, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez did not attend. Ortega did not provide a reason for his absence, while Chávez cited health reasons.
An AS/COA report, The Private Sector’s Commitment to Job Creation, was distributed to leaders and showcases private sector initiatives to combat joblessness in the Americas.
Read an AS/COA News Analysis on bilateral meetings held on the summit sidelines.
Read an AS/COA Online Explainer answering “What is the Summit of the Americas?
Obama: Colombia FTA to Take Effect Next Month

During his visit to Colombia for the Summit of the Americas, President Barack Obama announced that the free-trade agreement between Colombia and the United States would go into effect on May 15. Though the U.S. Congress approved the agreement in October, Colombia had to implement a workers rights plan before the accord could begin. When the FTA takes effect, over 80 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports and over 50 percent of U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia will be able to enter the country tax-free.
State Department Extends Visa Validity for Colombians

The U.S. State Department announced on Sunday that the U.S. government will extend the validity of visas for Colombians visiting the United States from five to ten years. The website says the extension is in support of “the expanding partnership between the United States and Colombia…which has resulted in increased exchanges for tourism and business.” Around 577,000 Colombians visit the United States annually.
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Tags: Summit of the Americas

Cuba, Alan Gross and the Summit of the Americas

April 18, 2012

by Matthew Aho

The uproar over the scandalous behavior of U.S. Secret Service agents, combined with front-page reporting of Secretary of State Clinton’s late-night party at a local salsa club appear to have drowned out more serious coverage of last weekend’s sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

Maybe it’s for the better. There isn’t much positive news to report—at least from a U.S. perspective.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón may have been impressed by President Obama’s patient demeanor during days-long speechifying by hemispheric leaders on issues ranging from the U.S.-led war on drugs to Argentina’s territorial claims to the Falkland Islands. But at the end of the day, 30 regional leaders refused to sign even a symbolic joint declaration, largely out of protest against U.S. policies that prevent one of our closest neighbors, Cuba, from joining the conversation. Even the host, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, acknowledged that future summits will be in jeopardy unless Cuba gets its seat at the table.

To be fair, when it comes to Cuba’s participation, both sides have valid points. Latin American leaders rightly point out that the U.S. embargo and policies of isolation are ineffective Cold War relics. The Obama administration and Canada correctly note that membership in the Organization of American States (OAS), which organizes the summit, is reserved for democratically-elected governments, which Cuba’s is not. But what’s missing from this largely rhetorical debate is less wishful thinking and more nuts and bolts analysis on how to improve U.S.–Cuba relations in the years leading up to 2015, when Panama has offered to host the next summit.

Since taking office, President Obama has unilaterally relaxed rules on travel and remittances to Cuba to their loosest levels since the late 1970s, and he seems poised to do more. Given ongoing reforms in Cuba, changing attitudes in South Florida and growing calls for policy changes in the U.S., a substantially warmer relationship is possible.

The catch is that the ball is in Havana’s court and the Cubans refuse to pave the way to better relations by making one simple gesture: releasing 63-year-old USAID subcontractor Alan Gross, who has been imprisoned since December 2009 on charges stemming from his work to distribute sensitive communications technologies to independent civil society groups in Cuba.

Disregarding the particulars of either sides’ positions on Gross’ imprisonment, it’s safe to say that he has become a pawn in a larger diplomatic chess match and a thorn in the foot of U.S.–Cuba relations. Despite early indications that the Cuban government would consider releasing Gross on “humanitarian grounds,” they have since tied his fate to that of five Cuban intelligence agents imprisoned since 1998 in the U.S. and suggested that a prisoner swap is the only way to resolve the impasse—a nonstarter for the White House. So, Gross remains—in the views of many observers—the single biggest impediment to further bilateral progress.

The Cubans should let Alan Gross go home now. Here’s why:

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Tags: Summit of the Americas, Cuba, Alan Gross

Cumbre de las Américas: la Cumbre de EEUU

April 16, 2012

by Jenny Manrique

No nos digamos mentiras: los únicos resultados concretos de la Cumbre de las Américas se hicieron a la medida de Estados Unidos. Unas pocas horas antes de que el presidente Barack Obama aterrizara en Cartagena, dos leyes sustanciales para la aprobación del Tratado de Libre Comercio (TLC) fueron aprobadas a pupitrazo por el Congreso de Colombia.

Por su propio veto (el de Estados Unidos), temas cruciales que marcaron la agenda mediática y política las últimas semanas, no se discutieron en la Cumbre: la inclusión de Cuba en próximos encuentros continentales y la defensa argentina de la soberanía de las Islas Malvinas. Ese disenso motivó que no hubiera declaración final conjunta. Una cumbre sin declaración, es como una reunión sin acta: ni idea quién estuvo ni qué se dijo, ni en qué orden, ni quién apoyo qué. Claro, aquí se sabe más que eso, pero varias de las reuniones fueron privadas, y las públicas fueron sin duda políticamente correctas.

Por tanto más hubiera valido hacer una cumbre bilateral y no un encuentro con 31 invitados que costó al menos 25 millones de dólares (según la propia cancillería) en los que algunos se fueron molestos (Argentina y Bolivia), otros cortaron su estancia inexplicablemente (Brasil) y otros se tomaron fotos con los indígenas Wayuu y hablaron de responsabilidad social (Chile) pero a la hora de la verdad tampoco aportaron al debate grueso que prometía marcar la diferencia en esta cumbre: la discusión sobre la política antidrogas.

Pese a que el mismo José Miguel Insulza, secretario general de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) dijo que ya era hora de una estrategia antidrogas propia para el continente, desde pronto Barack Obama, entrevistado en medios latinoamericanos, tanto como Juan Manuel Santos en medios norteamericanos, lanzó frases políticamente correctas como que aceptaba la responsabilidad de su país en el consumo, pero siempre fue claro en que no estaba de acuerdo con la despenalización.

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Tags: Summit of the Americas, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Barack Obama, Argentina, ALBA, Juan Manuel Santos, Counternarcotics

Monday Memo: AQ’s Top-Five Expected Stories for the Week of April 16

April 16, 2012

by AQ Online

Top stories this week are likely to include: the World Bank presidency goes to a vote; Secretary Clinton in Brazil; Repsol proposes talks with CFK; Chávez authorized for 90-day leave; and the possibility of progress in drug-related violence.

World Bank Presidency: With Colombia’s José Antonio Ocampo withdrawing his candidacy over the weekend, the contest for the next president of the World Bank is a two-person race. A vote is scheduled for today to decide between the two remaining candidates:  the United States’ Jim Yong Kim and Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Despite Brazil’s call recently for the BRICS nations to rally behind one candidate, pay attention to which candidate the developing economies will cast their vote. AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini says, “The ability of developing countries to really force a change in the international financial institutions depends on their ability to ally. They split over the IMF presidency last year, and despite their narrowing to two candidates for the World Bank, it’s difficult to imagine them rallying over the Nigerian candidate.”

Secretary Clinton in Brazil: After yesterday’s conclusion of the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Colombia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be in Brasilia, Brazil, today and tomorrow for meetings on the Global Partnership Dialogue and the Open Government Partnership (OGP). She and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will “welcome 42 new countries into the [OGP] as they announce concrete commitments to prevent corruption, promote transparency, and harness new technologies to empower citizens,” according to a State Department press release. AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak notes that “with last weekend’s summit not signaling any kernel of hemispheric unity, this week’s meetings are an important opportunity for the Americas’ two largest economies to show that one of the most important relationships in the hemisphere continues to strengthen.”

Repsol Proposes Talks with Argentina: Reports surfaced last week that the Argentine government was mulling a takeover of the majority of shares of YPF SA, the country’s largest oil company. Those reports sparked an international backlash especially in Spain, where YPF’s parent company Repsol is based. Spain’s minister of industry warned on Friday that Argentina would become an “international pariah” if it went ahead with the takeover—and Argentina has since delayed the project rather than abandon it. The head of Repsol is currently in Argentina and is urging talks between his company and the Argentine government. Look out for developments this week.

Chávez in Cuba for Extended Stay: Although he planned to attend last weekend’s Summit of the Americas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez instead departed for further medical treatment in Havana after doctors advised him on Saturday not to travel to Cartagena. On the same day, the Venezuelan legislature legally authorized Chávez to leave the country for up to 90 days. Pay attention to how Venezuelans react to the possibility of a prolonged absence of the president—especially the opposition eager to unseat him.

Progress in Drug-Related Violence?: Last weekend’s Summit “served as a good forum for discussion over drugs—and that was about it,” according to Sabatini. But while no final declaration was made on this longstanding problem, there was one glimmer of hope on Saturday. El Salvador, one of the Northern Triangle countries embattled by the bitter gang violence surrounding narcotics trade, experienced its first homicide-free day since President Mauricio Funes took office in June 2009. Whether this is a one-off success or the beginning of a pattern remains to be seen.

Tags: Summit of the Americas, Cuba, Brazil, Venezuela, World Bank, Argentina, Hugo Chavez, Hillary Clinton, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Dilma Rousseff, drug violence, Repsol YPF

Summit of the Americas in Cartagena: A Welcome but Misguided Disagreement

April 15, 2012

by Christopher Sabatini

I don’t think Cuba should be a member of the Summit of the Americas process. Nor do I think it is worthwhile that divisions over Cuba should dominate a regional summit. But I’ll take a genuine disagreement like we had in Cartagena, Colombia this weekend over the anodyne, empty and ultimately ineffective statements that have come out of past summits.

That the 30-plus elected heads of state walked away from the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena this weekend with no agreement is a reflection of the diversity and changes within the hemisphere. Standard photo-ops and platitudes have now become an opportunity whenwhether on U.S. drug policy or the status of Cuba in the hemisphereheads of state can express their displeasure and difference with U.S. policy and try to expand the debate. That’s a far cry from the empty, forced consensus over issues like education (Santiago 1997), sustainable development and connecting the Americas (this year’s theme) that have come out of past Summits. None of these were really issues that would normally have been Summit-worthy in any other region. But that’s what’s marked past summits. And, as expected, there was never much followup afterwards, despite all the high-minded commitments.

This time, countries wanted to send a signal. And they did.

Let me be clear, though: under its current leadership Cuba doesn’t belong in the Summit. When it was started in 1994, the Summit of the Americas was intended to be a club of democratically elected leaders. And if it is to mean anything it has to stay that way. Granting access to the Castro brothers who have ruled Cuba since 1959 would contradict the very purpose of the Summit process and demonstrate cowardice in the defense of democratic standards and human rights in the hemisphere.

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Tags: Summit of the Americas, Cuba, U.S. Drug Policy, Cartagena

Ahead of the Summit: An Afro-Colombian Letter to Obama

April 13, 2012

by Daniel Mera Villamizar

Please find the original text below, submitted in Spanish.

We're not going to complain or request solutions. Welcome to Colombia, a country that in the last past 200 years has tried to align itself to your ideals of liberty and equality, with more or less mediocre results. Acclaimed historians have often said that we're a "country of the in-between," despite the fact that we've been reluctant to renounce our airs of "greatness."

Since President Santos decided to give out—in your presence—two titles to collective territories for Afro-Colombians, the issue of our country’s Afro-Colombian has been on the agenda.

You, President Obama, would most likely have a vision that's oriented to a civil, independent and critical society; it would be strange if you didn't.

Ours is one that has given a "conditioned support" to the lobby that backed the ratification of the free-trade agreement in the U.S. Congress, with our own resources.

We have shown other proof of our desire of inserting the best interests of Colombia's Afro-descendant population into those of the nation.

Tags: Summit of the Americas, Colombia, Barack Obama, Social inclusion, Afro-Latino

Una Cumbre, muchos debates

April 11, 2012

by Jenny Manrique

Que la Cumbre de las Américas, un encuentro continental donde se reúnen 33 presidentes, sea el escenario para que temas de largo alcance pretendan ser discutidos, es una obviedad. La pregunta es si de la ambición no quedará solo el cansancio y si la promesa de la canciller colombiana, María Ángela Holguín, de que los alcances de la declaración final no se conviertan en saludos a la bandera, puede ser real.

Si bien es cierto que el debate sobre la política antidroga ha ocupado la mayoría de los titulares no es el único que quiere ser metido en la agenda. Sobre este hay que decir que busca abrir horizontes más allá de las directrices estadounidenses pro fumigación y entre las propuestas se han colado desde un impuesto a la legalización (hecha por el propio presidente Juan Manuel Santos), hasta el reconocimiento a la hoja de coca como sagrada tal y como sucede en Bolivia (hecha por los indígenas) pasando por el tratamiento de los consumidores como un problema de salud pública (hecha por Ong de siete países).

El secretario general de la OEA, José Miguel Insulza, reconoció que hay la necesidad de que el hemisferio tenga su propia “estrategia” y el gobierno colombiano quiere que al menos de la Cumbre salga una comisión de expertos, sin hacer la claridad de que eso esté en el documento final. Es más desde el principio, diplomáticamente, le está haciendo el quite a que el tema aparezca en los compromisos. De las múltiples propuestas habrá que ver si hay una real voluntad política para ejecutar una nueva política antidroga y no solo declarar que la necesitamos.

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Tags: Summit of the Americas, Colombia, Counternarcotics

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