Cuba on the Obama-Lula Agenda

HAVANA TIMES, March 14 — When US President Obama meets with his Brazilian counterpart Luis Inacio Lula da Silva on the weekend he may be forced to show some of his cards on his stance on Latin America and especially a glimpse of his policy towards Cuba and Venezuela.

Many analysts are saying that Obama wants to guarantee an upbeat meeting of the America’s Summit in Trinidad and Tobago in April 17-19, his first gathering with the region’s leaders.

Lula has repeatedly criticized the perennial US blockade on Cuba, and has called on Obama to improve ties with Venezuela, Cuba’s closest economic and political ally.

“I’m going to ask that the U.S. take a different view of Latin America,” Lula said before leaving Brazil. Now the question is whether Obama, is truly willing to break the ice that he suggested during his presidential campaign.

Energy policies, including the US import tariff on ethanol, and other forms of protectionism are other big topics expected to be on the bilateral agenda, at a time when the affects of the deep US economic crisis are spreading worldwide.

Relations between the United States and Latin American turned especially sour during the Bush administration which put little emphasis on the region. The South American leaders have been increasingly pursuing joint efforts for trade and cooperation as a more home grown alternative for development with less influence of the US transnational corporations.