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Americas – A New Day for Cuba and the Drug Cartels

Published on: April 25th 2009 13:49:07

The fifth Summit of the Americas which began on April 17th presented President Obama with a unique opportunity to redefine US relations with Latin American. En route to Trinidad, Obama displayed solidarity with his southern neighbor, by demonstrating the Administration’s strong support to Mexico’s ongoing battle against drug cartels. His swift diplomatic mission was followed by a widely distributed Op-Ed that promised other nations of the hemisphere “a new day” in their relationship with their most powerful member. While the global economic crisis factored heavily into summit discussions, the debate over Washington's enduring ideological conflict with Cuba dominated the background conversations. Obama’s calls to ease travel restrictions and remittances for Cuban Americans earlier last week, brought an unprecedented reply from Havana. After 50 years of stalled relations, Raul Castro offered to talk to Washington about all outstanding grievances. However, Obama and his advisers have ruled out a unilateral end to the US trade embargo against Cuba - something which many Latin American leaders want to see. The Administration’s decision to change the nation’s stance on Cuba continues to draw strong criticism from Congress. With push back on Capitol Hill, major US policy shifts or new detailed proposals for US-Latin American relations remain unlikely. The modest thaw in US-Cuba relations and a fresh US approach to the anti-drug campaign illustrate, however, that Obama is determined to establish a more collaborative US-Latin American relationship.

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