By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES April 18 — US President Barack Obama and Cuba’s Raul Castro took center stage at the opening day of the Americas Summit in Trinidad and Tobago on Friday. The fact that Castro was the only leader from the region without an invitation did not keep his presence from being felt.
The Cuban leader has made repeated overtures to Obama offering to discuss any and all issues in direct talks if they are held under the premise of mutual respect.
Faced with an entire continent advising him to take the cue, Obama began his presence in Port of Spain by signaling a willingness to engage with Cuba. He said that the US “seeks a new beginning” with the neighboring island it has persecuted for a half-century due to its socialist orientation.
Latin American leaders including Brazil’s Lula da Silva, Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez are pushing for Obama to end the economic blockade on Cuba, a hold over from the Cold War that ended some 20 years ago.
US relations with Latin American reached a low-point under President George W. Bush and the region’s leaders believe White House rapprochement with Cuba would go a long way to setting a new constructive tone.