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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
* 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.
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.