By Harry Lawrence - Publisher, The Reporter
The Summit of the Americas ended a week ago, but the people of the Hemisphere are still talking about the “breakthrough” talks. That’s because almost every participating state came away from those talks with the sense that it had accomplished something worthwhile.
President Barack Obama and the United States were certainly big winners. The New York Times in its report noted that with Obama old resentments against the United States seemed to “have melted away.” He was able to convince all of Latin America and the Caribbean that the United States would in the future be a conscientious partner in the affairs of the region.
Cuba appears to have done well also. President Raul Castro now has reason to hope that he has seen the beginning of the end of more than half a century of trade embargo aimed at isolating Cuba. In response to the American challenge that Cuba must do more to respect and enhance human rights, Raul Castro has said that his efforts in this direction will continue.
Venezuela too has had cause for satisfaction. President Hugo Chavez in his uniquely expansive style engaged the US President with a memorable handshake and presented him with a book by the Uruguayan writer Edwardo Galeano. The book, “Open Veins – Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent” is an unflattering study of Spanish and US relations with Latin America. It’s public presentation to President Obama caused people all over the world to take notice and buy the book. “A Open Veins” immediately shot up to the number two position on the Best seller List from an obscure position 6,000 places down.
Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean in general also had a good day. This was the best, most productive summit of the Americas in a long time. Port of Spain the Capital, sparkled under the sun. The security and law enforcement, made up of police forces from each CARICOM state, were superb and there were no incidents of any kind to mar the occasion.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning had reason to be proud of his country and of himself for pulling off this important summit without a hitch and Prime Minister Dean Barrow as Chairman, had an opportunity to represent CARICOM and Belize with style and suave eloquence, giving the American President his first real taste of Caribbean hospitality and statesmanship.
It was a huge diplomatic undertaking and it worked. The International Monetary Fund is to be infused with new billions to meet the economic challenges ahead, and Caribbean leaders now know that they can go to the President of the United States to get a fair shake. For us in Belize and for the wider Caribbean, it was a good week.