Brasília – President Dilma Rousseff traveled to Colômbia on Friday for a weekend summit with most of the other Western hemisphere leaders. Most, but not all. The presidents of Bolivia, Evo Morales, and Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, along with Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Rafael Correa of Ecuador all threatened to boycott the meeting because Cuba was excluded.
However, only Correa and Ortega really stayed at home because of Cuba. And then, at the last moment, Chavez of Venezuela decided not to make the trip because of health problems and he was joined by the president of Haiti, Michel Martelly, who was also ill.
The fact is that the United States insists that Cuba be excluded (some shortcomings in the area of human rights and democratic governance) but almost all nations in the Americas now agree with the Brazilian position, which is that the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on the island nations since 1962 has long outlasted whatever use it had and should be lifted. Then Cuba should be allowed to return to what is, after all, the Summit of the Americas. In fact the catchphrase of this summit has become: “The last one without Cuba.”
Last week, on her visit to Washington, Dilma was asked how Obama responded when she told him that the 6th Summit of the Americas would be the last summit without Cuba and she replied that he did not say anything because “…it was not a question.”
The agenda at the summit includes commerce, integration of electricity grids, information technology and disaster prevention. Interestingly, the United States insists on discussing the drug war that most of Latin America considers a failure. Running counter to the America position, there is a movement underway in the region toward decriminalization or even legalizing drugs as a solution. Ex-presidents, such as Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico), along with Cesar Gaviria (Colombia) have publicly come out in favor of a new approach to dealing with the narcotraffic problem. At the summit, the president of Guatemala, Perez Molina, will make an appeal for legalization. His country, in Central America, is at the crossroads of traffic in drugs, arms and even human beings.
Dilma will have a private meeting with the host, Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. The two neighboring countries have worked together in operations to rescue hostages of the Farc and are interested in border security, commerce and integration.
Security in a larger, continental sense, will be discussed at length at the summit. There is growing concern with the expansion of drug and arms traffic. Another worrisome event is the installation of American military bases in Colombia that has divided opinion in the region as there are fears of US interference in the domestic affairs of neighboring nations.
Argentina will also insist on a discuss of the Malvinas/Falklands crisis.
The presidents will also discuss joint efforts to deal with social inclusion and poverty. Dilma will mention programs implemented in Brazil and their importance in Brazilian government policy. She will emphasize that combating poverty will be on the agenda at the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference in June in Rio de Janeiro.