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Americas: 5th Summit Reactions

The much-hyped Fifth Summit of the Americas is now over, culminating with the Hemispheric leaders’ adoption of the Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain – albeit with one signatory – the Prime Minister of host country Trinidad and Tobago, who purportedly signed on behalf of all participating leaders. This signaled to many a clear lack of unanimity on the final declaration, hardly surprising given the differing agendas of the 34 participating nations. Bloggers were quick to post their impressions of the three-day engagement.

ON LATIN AMERICA
Guyana Providence Stadium thought “the event was well organized”, while Barbadian Cheese-on-bread! noted that:

Already President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega Saveedra is tearing some holes in US foreign policy; Obama will have a lot of work to do to win over the leaders in this part of the region.

Compatriot Bajan Dream Diary was pleased to see that the U.S. President kept his cool despite a “no gloves, no holds barred” offensive by Latin American leaders:

Sardonically thanking President Ortega for not blaming him for things that happened “when I was four years old”, Barack Obama took the floor as third speaker in his capacity of President of the United States. Stating his seriousness on “launching a new chapter” in hemispheric relations, he cautioned that issues and progress could be stymied if states dwelled on stale arguments. In so doing, he dismissed the bulk of Presidents de Kirchner’s and Ortega’s speeches, stating that he came to the Summit not to debate the past, but to debate the future. President Obama said that he promised a new partnership, with no senior or junior partner, working together for shared prosperity.

ON CUBA
Cuba was also top on the agenda – not only for the delegates, but for bloggers. Bajan Dream Diary continued:

On Cuba, President Obama said that he sought a “new beginning”, stating that there was now a long journey that needed to be travelled to undo the mistrust. Referencing this week’s earlier removal of some restrictions on Cuba, Obama says that he is prepared to have his administration liaise with Cuba on a range of issues from free speech to drugs and human rights.

Cuban diaspora blogger Uncommon Sense agreed that “President Barack Obama is right on two counts: American policy over the past 50 years has not brought about a free Cuba”:

Under Obama, the goal of American policy stays the same, and that is welcome. Nothing Obama has said or done on Cuba so far should make anyone that he is about to abandon the cause of Cuban freedom.

Hopefully, his different tactics will bring a different result.

26th Parallel, however, would have preferred to see from the U.S. President “a little more Cowboy W and a little less Obama Cool in front of leaders such as Lula and Bachelet and Ortega and Chavez who don't seem to understand the whole Cuban dissident concept”:

He could have mentioned people such as Oscar Elias Biscet and Antunez by name. He could have related their tragic stories for the world to understand…of course, that would have knocked Mr. Obama's precious halo off in the eyes of many of the Summit attendees. In the light of who the real leaders are, however, that wouldn't have been such a bad thing. Obama has the world's attention and a big stage in which to profess his views. Too bad he didn't take advantage of this to advocate for real freedom-fighters.

Ninety miles away…in another country said that “the overall tenor of the [President Obama's] speech really left a metallic taste in mine”:

I confess that for the first time in my life I have felt shame for my country to see my President groveling before such as Hugo Chavez, and Daniel Ortega and the like. Perhaps if he had not just sat through a 50 minute diatribe by this last before this address, it would not have been quite as bad. I doubt it.

To be fair, he did remind these countries of their own responsibilities. And, yes, our behavior toward the lower part of our hemisphere has been less than stellar. Yet nothing we have done equals what these countries have done to themselves, to what the very men in that room, as well as the elephant in the living room, are presently engaged in doing to their countries. To see the President of the United States, equating the United States, Costa Rica, and others to such as Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia is not only specious but shameful.

Circles Robinson, writing for Havana Times, noted the significance of the fact that:

Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez took advantage of the Americas Summit in Trinidad and Tobago to give Obama a copy of Galeano’s book: ‘The Open Veins of Latin America’ as a way of summing up the history of European colonization and later US dominance of the continent.

The Americas Summit in Port of Spain is providing a forum for the US president to hear a chorus of Latin American and Caribbean leaders encouraging him to change the course of history by ending the half-century US blockade on Cuba and mending relations with the Caribbean island.

Along the Malecon took a more in-depth look at the Obama/Chavez encounter:

Approaching Obama was a shrewd, calculated move. Chavez comes across as someone who is willing to make peace, to settle any differences with the United States. That's a good thing.

But Chavez and Obama have certain irreconcilable differences: Chavez is bent on turning Venezuela into a socialist state. Obama is not a socialist, no matter how many times Fox News and Rush Limbaugh repeat that line.

Chavez has his own political motives. I don't pretend to know what they are, but my guess is that they have as much or more to do with Cuba than they do Venezuela. When Chavez shakes Obama's hand, he may be sending a message of reconciliation from Cuba, and perhaps from Fidel Castro himself.

Cuban diaspora bloggers were not the only ones who weighed in on the performance of their leaders. Vexed Bermoothes, from Bermuda, thought that despite the fact that “the main subject of discussion at the Fifth Summit of the Americas was Cuba, Cuba, Cuba. And maybe a little bit on tax havens”, the Bermudian Premier would have done well to mention “the breathtaking allegations of corruption and mismanagement in TCI [Turks and Caicos Islands]“:

It’s worrying that the Premier would attend such a high profile event, and this is all he has to offer.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Bloggers from the host country, however, were by far the most vociferous about the event. Many posted their thoughts on the Summit Twitter Channel and followed developments on Facebook. Trinidad and Tobago News Blog continued to post its daily roundup of mainstream media stories, while journalist Raffique Shah, writing for the blog, said:

What I found distasteful about the media pre-Summit hype was the focus on Chavez and US President Barack Obama at the expense of other leaders.

Brazil’s Lula de Silva is, for me, maybe the most important president attending the Summit. Besides the reality that his country is poised to become a global economic powerhouse in the near future, it is home to what has been described as ‘the lungs of Earth', the Amazon forest.

Speaking of mainstream media, Media Watch featured two posts with comments from viewers about the disappointing quality of local Summit coverage.

Trin could not help but notice the difference between local politics and Obama's “change we can believe in“:

What do trinis hope Obama's visit to Trinidad will accomplish? I'd be thrilled if Obama's commitment to serving the people of his country, his intelligence, his ideas about sustainable development and his sense of justice would rub off on our own power-grubbing Prime Minister and his pack of fools.

I don’t know how everyday people will benefit from Obama meeting Manning but as the leader of the free world I really hope Obama’s influence will inspire the next leader of our country to step up and bring us the change we so badly need.

The Undisputed Truth published a series of posts which focused on his impressions from day to day, some of which included the following “highlights”:

DAY ONE
As expected, the entire Summit was overshadowed by the media’s bloodthirsty wish for a ‘showdown’ between Obama and Chavez.

‘Good’ things coming out of the Summit :
* Trinidad and Tobago didn’t thoroughly embarrass itself
* Hugh Chavez and Barack Obama are now homeboys
* With the CIA, Secret Service, FBI, multiple zones and lockdowns, the people of Port-of-Spain are probably the safest they will ever be in their entire lives.

DAY TWO
* Most of the Latin American leaders looked like a bunch of teenage girls at a Jonas Brothers’ concert as they surrounded Obama for photo-ops
* President of Bolivia Evo Morales came out guns blazing this morning and called his own press conference where he criticized Cuba’s exclusion from the Summit, talked about human rights, criticized Barack Obama and U.S policies.
* Dennis Mc Comie, national Secretariat spokesman made a total ass out of himself by asking at the Bolivian president’s press conference (in the middle of his fire and brimstone speech about real issues) his opinion about…the cultural show at the opening ceremony for the Summit.
* Caribbean leaders talked about helping Haiti, the poorest country of the Western hemisphere.

Wow, some action.

DAY THREE
US$300 million later : smiles, handshakes, photo ops, laughs and nothing.

* The latest update is that some countries will ‘adopt’ the declaration but not ‘endorse’ it. In other words, we don’t even have confirmation that the leader’s even really agree and commit to the airy-fairy, practically insignificant ‘accomplishments’ of the Summit…adopt basically means saying ‘ok cool’ without committing to it. I’m quite sure that could have been done over the phone or on the way to the bathroom without hosting a summit.
* PM Patrick Manning got dissed by a foreign reporter who questioned whether it was Hugo Chavez who was in charge of the planning for the Summit. Apparently access to the actual meetings among leaders, other than Chavez/Obama photo-ops were extremely limited. Manning responded quoting the Bible, saying basically the Summit is better off without ‘public scrutiny'. Last time I checked, the Summit is supposed to, at least academically, ultimately benefit the public. How then can it be better off without having the media free access?
* PM Manning again was asked by a Barbadian reporter how he intends to answer critics like myself who think the Summit is too costly. Manning responded saying that no cost is too much as the Summit will be beneficial for investment, and that ‘the World’s eyes are on Trinidad'. Manning is therefore officially stating that its ok to spend as much money as possible for aesthetic upgrades for the country to appear to look good ‘in the world’s eyes.’

The anti-climax of the Summit (the adoption – rather than endorsement – of the declaration) soon had local bloggers resorting to humour: as they say in Trinidad and Tobago, “if yuh doh laugh, you'll cry”. The Secret Blog of Patrick “Patos” Manning (a fake blog of the Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister) proclaimed that the decision to host the Summit was “all about the booty”:

Been hearing rumours that unpatriotic types out there are saying that the only reason I’ve dragged this country into hosting a multi-million dollar Summit is to boost my ego. It’s true that my ego isn’t complaining, but these naysayers may be interested to know that the real reason I decided to throw this shindig is actually the gifts I’ll be receiving from the 33 other heads of government attending the meeting.

The anonymous blogger was also very active on Twitter.
Over in Barbados, Trinidad-born B.C. Pires shared his thoughts on “President Obama’s live press conference from the…roof deck at the Trinidad Hilton”, while This Beach Called Life posted another fictitious entry into the diary of President Obama:

The Hyatt looked like a hotel and with all the talk on the blogs about tall buildings I was disappointed. I mentioned this to Mr. Manning who seemed offended at first but then offered me a bowl of corn soup. I refused since I couldn’t easily identify all the floating objects and security protocol requires The President identify all food objects.

PM PM was shaky at the start of his speech but seemed to get his stride after he offered Mr. Morales a bowl of corn soup, probably the same bowl I turned down. I am beginning to suspect he threw this summit just to serve corn soup. PM PM referred to me as ‘my kind’ and I nearly fainted when he said it. I didn’t know if he meant black, smart, charismatic, handsome or soup-shy. Maybe he meant all. I am beginning to wonder how ‘his kind’ ever got elected.

  • Sofia

    So no bloggers agree that it’s absurd not to have a representative from Cuba (and Puerto Rico for that matter) in the OAS??

    The problem with all the media coverage of the summit going to Chávez/Obama is not only that it takes away from talking about all the other leaders and issues of Latin America, to me the bigger issue is how easy it becomes to dismiss the argument for Cuba in the OAS once it’s championed by a leader that has been so widely demonized. Disagreeing with Chávez shouldn’t be reason enough to disqualify his arguments or overlook causes like Cuba, where it’s clear that a majority of Latin American leaders agree. While the Latin American press celebrates this agreement and discusses the different nuances to Cuba’s cause (instead of just calling them communists and/or bringing up the fact that they have political prisoners and moving on) and the historic importance of this convergence of leaders, all I read and hear in the US is that Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America is a lefty, anti-American book and that the sky should fall down because Chávez and Obama shook hands.

    If the mainstream media is going to digest our news so thoroughly and drown any possibility of independent thought or analysis to come from them, it really is up to the bloggers to ask the hard questions and I’m really sorry to say this, but I just don’t think any of the pertinent questions are being asked in this article.

  • http://akalol.wordpress.com/ aka_lol

    According to the OAS website :- Democracy is the cornerstone of the OAS — a necessary condition for countries’ participation and a foundation for all of its activities. The Inter-American Democratic Charter sets out a simple, clear declaration: “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.”

    Once Cuba move towards Democracy then becoming a member is inevitable. Unless, of course, the OAS changes its mind about democracy.

    • Sofia

      If the OAS ruled itself by the things it sells on its website, or for that matter the principles it sells to the general public and which you seem to openly accept without question, then it OAS wouldn’t have accepted the dictatorships of Pinochet, Somoza, Ríos Montt and many others to participate in the organization. It also would have intervened in the political persecution and mass killings that took place (and still take place) throughout the continent, from as recent as the Fox government in Mexico and Fujimori in Perú. It would have intervened on the numerous occasions in which elections have been stolen in our continent, it would condemn the use of paramilitary groups to do the government’s killing from Colombia to Guatemala and actually do something about it.

      etc etc etc etc

      But of course, the OAS has never been much more than a puppet international alliance for the US government to spread its influence through Central and South America and the Caribbean, and the US just so happens to have also had a hand in putting all these previously mentioned dictators and sinister presidents into power. A lot of the coups and fraudulent elections that have slowly disintegrated the fabric of responsible politics in Latin America have been orchestrated in the US, have been funded, have been trained, have been nudged forward and protected by the US.

      The problem with Cuba is not that it doesn’t have a traditional democratic electoral system with people putting pieces of paper in boxes so that their pictures can be published around the world and exhibited as part of some sort of “standardized freedom”, the problem is that since the revolution it hasn’t allowed the US to inflict on their sovereignty, it hasn’t allowed the IMF to condemn its future to debt and it hasn’t allowed any other country to undermine their determination to build a different model for a country.

      Cuba doesn’t need the OAS to continue building, but the OAS should be ashamed of calling itself a representative model of the continent while keeping them at bay. As long as the US blockade continues, and as long as organizations like the OAS refuse to admit Cuba into their structure, Cuba will remain a country at war. On the defensive. Unable to develop and grow, to bring to fruition the ideas of its revolution.

      An electoral process or some political prisoners (both of which can be found in countries all over the world in conditions much more worrisome than in an Island of 10 million) is just not reason enough.

  • ColinS

    So the consensus is these meetings are useless and expensive waste of time. The leaders should have blogged each other instead (Cuba needs to get up to speed on telecom infrastructure to really be included in the blogging.) This will be a new, cordial era with blog diplomacy.

  • http://theislamicfront.vox.com Umar Abdullah

    PRESS RELEASE:

    The Prime Minister’s Role
    After the Summit of the Americas

    Waajihatul Islaamiyyah (The Islamic Front) would like to send a strong warning to Prime Minister Patrick Manning and his administration to ‘make it right’ after the Fifth Summit of the Americas.
    This summit ought to be a purging of his heart, mind and soul and should begin with a clean slate on Tuesday April 21st, 2009.
    In keeping with the theme “Securing Our Citizens’ Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability”, the Prime Minister must note that the common factor here is the human lives that make up these 34 states, more so, since the most important resource of any country is its people.

    You must take care of the people (or his children as he would put it) but in recent times the citizenry has been treated as bastards.
    The time has come where Prime Minister Manning is to step up to the plate as a real leader and deal with the issues affecting the human lives of this twin island state.
    This ‘band-aid’ policy is not going to work anymore.

    Six hundred million dollars ($600,000,000.00) is a lot of money.
    We are giving him (the Prime Minister) the benefit of the doubt, despite the fact that social organisations across the region complained that governments have not fulfilled commitments assumed at earlier editions of the summit, on issues such as access to information, freedom of expression, decentralisation and participation by civil society.

    The main conclusion is that the majority of the governments have been backsliding; that is, they have taken concrete actions that actually run counter to the commitments signed at previous summits.

    Apart from the summit agenda, we have real issues that include:
    • Poverty as it relates to preventable maternal mortality and deprivation.
    • Adequate health care, food, housing, land acquisition, education, access to clean water, proper roads and unemployment relief as it relates to government policy.
    • Human rights as it relates to government operations and behaviour (e.g. to prison life and prison reform).
    • Environment as it relates to government projects.
    • Public security as it relates to crime, corruption and arbitrary detention.

    All these are issues of great human concern.

    Any attempt by Prime Minister Manning and/or his administration to shift from these and other related issues would result in no other choice but for him and/or his administration to suffer the consequences… which would in turn hamper the health of this dying democracy.

    Umar Abdullah
    Leader
    Waajihatul Islaamiyyah
    (The Islamic Front)

    1-868-787-0765

    For Immediate Release
    14th April 2009

  • http://yahoo sarah

    The East Indian descendents were not represented as they should have been in the cultural show. Imagine a country where 48% of the population are of east indian descent and just about 2 minutes to highlight east indian culture. This is another one of PM Manning’s move to divide the country.

  • http://www.newsy.com/videos/divided_over_racism/ TDoc

    And the most exciting part of the summit was none other than… the Obama-Chavez loving moment… See what the media said: http://tr.im/jsAb

  • http://www.undisputedtruth.net The Undisputed Truth

    Why is Cuba a big deal? It is futile to “protest” their exclusion because America will not budge on their stance against them.

    And wow Sarah your government just wasted $2 billion of your money and your response is it wasn’t Indian enough. Classic.

  • sarah

    The undisputed truth is that I am not of East Indian Descent. It was an observation.

    The PM would continue to spend billions, Summit or not, so why can’t the Indians get a piece of the pie like the others, despite their advocate’s poor leadership.

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