Summit to Test Obama over Cuba

HAVANA TIMES, March 21 — When the leaders of Latin America, the Caribbean and North America, except Cuba, meet in Trinidad and Tobago for the Americas Summit April 17-19, US President Barack Obama will be setting the tone of his administration in relation to the continent.

And it is that one absent country that may very well be focal point of numerous interventions. “Cuba is on everybody’s lips,” Trinidad PM Patrick Manning was quoted as saying in Brasilia where he met with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Manning is on a whirlwind several nation trip in preparation for the Americas Summit, hoping that it will not erupt in conflict between the US and its strongest detractors.

Lula Da Silva visited Obama last weekend at the White House and while several economic issues were discussed, the US relationship with the region and its prolonged hostile policy towards Cuba were clearly concerns that the Brazilian leader has made known to Obama.

Lula like Manning, supports an end to the nearly half century US blockade on Cuba and normal diplomatic relations between all countries of the region.

With the announcement this week of restored ties between Costa Rica and Cuba, and El Salvador president-elect Mauricio Funes’promise to do the same when he takes office in June, the only remaining country in the hemisphere without diplomatic relations with Cuba will be the United States.

In what could well be a strategy session before the Americas Summit, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close ally of Cuba, has called for a meeting of the six Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) countries —Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Dominica and Honduras on April 16 in Caracas.