By Circles Robinson
Months before the summit took place, the continued exclusion of Cuba from the regional forum and the question of Argentine sovereignty over the Malvinas (Falklands) were already looming as examples of the growing distance between the foreign policies of the United States and the rest of the continent.
The hopes for a new era in US relations with Latin America and the Caribbean — expressed at the 2009 Summit of the Americas in Trinidad as the new Obama administration was replacing George W Bush’s government — were no longer present this weekend in Cartagena.
“There is no final declaration because there is no consensus,” said Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos in his closing address to the leaders.
Santos noted that several countries expressed their desire for Cuba to be part of the forum, something the Obama administration sharply opposed from the beginning.
The other chief political issue of the summit was Argentina’s claim of sovereignty over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, which is supported by the entire continent except the USA and Canada.
In seeking to find something positive out of the discord, Santos said, “We showed that there are no vetoed topics in this summit… which strengthens integration.
The War on Drugs
On the persistent issue of drugs, Santos said, “We agreed on the need to analyze the results (of the current strategy on drugs) and explore new approaches.” He added that the mandate to begin this process was given to the Organization of American States (OAS).
The Obama administration has sought to maintain its high-budget and high-causality drug war, while other countries such as Colombia and Guatemala are urging a change in strategy, one that could even include decriminalization or legalization of certain drugs.
The US is the world’s largest market for illicit drug consumption.
Other Less Thorny Issues
Agreements were reached in dealing with the impact of environmental and natural disasters through cooperative resource allocations and the design of prevention and risk management strategies, reported TeleSur TV.
Another issue that achieved consensus was the commitment to strengthen cooperation and coordination between the countries “as a fundamental tool to effectively combat violence, corruption and organized crime in all of its forms,” added the Venezuela based television network.
Santos said other accords would serve to “increase access to technology on all fronts” and facilitate a series of projects involving railway and electricity interconnections.
As is usual at such events, a call was made to fight poverty and create dignified employment.
ALBA Nations Take a Stand
Earlier on Sunday, the eight-nation Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) came out with a pronouncement stating that it would not be participating in future summits as long as Cuba remains excluded.
The warning was signed by the eight ALBA governments: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, St. Vincent’s and the Grenadines and Venezuela.
According to the bloc, Cuba is an integral part of the Americas and “has the unconditional and unquestionable” right to participate in this forum.
The ALBA nations also demanded Washington “immediately end” its half-century economic blockade against Cuba and “begin a process of dialogue based on respect and the sovereignty and self-determination of the Cuban people.”
For its part, the US has argued that Cuba is ineligible to attend “because it lacks democratic credentials and does not respect the human rights of the Cuban people,” noted the US government’s Voice of America (VOA) broadcasting service.
On the first day of the two-day summit, host Juan Manuel Santos (Washington’s closest ally in South America), took the lead in initiating a US foreign policy siege. In his opening speech he stated:
“Isolation, the embargo, indifference and turning away have already shown their ineffectiveness. In today’s world, that’s not a justifiable path. It’s an anachronism that ties us to the era of the Cold War that was overcome decades ago.”
Santos added, “It’s time to get beyond the paralysis caused by ideological stubbornness.” He added that Cuba is one example of “the consequences of not overcoming the paradigms of the past, of the absence of bridges and creativity.”
In the debates, 32 of the 34 countries — left-leaning as well as conservative run nations — pushed for Cuba to be included in the next summit, noted the VOA.
Who Wasn’t in Cartagena
The presidents of Ecuador (Rafael Correa) and Nicaragua (Daniel Ortega) decided to boycott the Cartagena summit over the exclusion of Cuba. Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez and Haitian leader Michel Joseph Martelly did not attend for health reasons.
The next Summit of the Americas is scheduled for Panama in 2015.