Americas Summit: Two Views

Abajo! (“Down!”) was the response given by the friendly, bronzed-skinned middle-aged Cuban man who chatted with my husband and me over Cuban coffee on Calle Ocho, downtown Miami, when asked about Fidel Castro.  This discussion and our interaction with many other proud Cuban Americans occurred during a recent visit to Miami, just prior to the Fifth Summit of the Americas.

His sentiment against the 50-year-old communist dictatorship is the tenor among many Cubans living in Florida who disapprove of the Castro brothers’ administration.  It is but one example of how the American media choose to focus on President Obama’s conciliatory approach to the region [especially Cuba].  Meanwhile, Latin American newspapers are praising Obama and hoping for a hemispheric alliance.

“If the United States wants, it has the chance to write a new chapter in history, not of interference, but of cooperation, building things with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean,” asserted Brazilian President Lula da Silva, as reported in the Bogota, Colombia-based El Tiempo newspaper.

On the other hand, WSJ Mary Anastasia O’Grady authored a column yesterday titled Summit of Americas: A Missed Opportunity.

“Mr. Obama had to know that the meeting [the Summit] is used by the region’s politicians to rally the base back home by showing that they can put Uncle Sam in his place.  Realizing this, the American president might have arrived at the Port of Spain prepared to return their volley.  They have, after all, tolerated and even encouraged for decades one of the most repressive regimes of the 20th century.  In recent years, that repression has spread from Cuba to Venezuela, and today millions of Latin Americans live under tyranny.  As the leader of the free world, Mr. Obama had the duty to speak out for these voiceless souls. In this he failed.”

Thus, there are two views of the fifth Americas Summit.  The one reported in the region describes a successful Summit with an open door to do business, while the American view, when not praising the president’s efforts to be liked, questions Obama for not defending his nation’s main principle: freedom.

One positive outcome from this Summit is that the region got Obama’s attention early on and his administration is currently reviewing the Colombia trade agreement, a huge leap from his prior campaign statements to his organized labor supporters.  Finalizing this agreement would bolster a strong U.S. ally in a region where anti-Americanism is on the rise.  Read WSJ’s New Movement on Colombia Trade Pact