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Obama to face pressure at 6th Americas Summit
WASHINGTON—United States President Barack Obama will face fresh pressure on Cuba and illegal drugs when he meets this week with Latin American leaders, some of whom have grown skeptical of his promise to forge a new era of partnership. Obama will join more than 30 heads of state in the coastal Colombian city of Cartagena for the Sixth Summit of the Americas, which started Tuesday and ends today.
Obama’s reception at the Summit of the Americas probably will be more subdued than at the last meeting in 2009, in the two-island nation of T&T. Back then, the newly inaugurated American president was greeted with cheers, winning praise for pledging to be a humble, cooperative partner and raising the prospect of a shift in relations between the US and Cuba.
Notably absent will be Cuban leader Raul Castro, as well as the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, who is boycotting over Havana’s continued exclusion from the hemispheric meetings. The White House, wary of a foreign policy distraction in an election year focused largely on domestic issues, has tried to play down a push by some regional leaders to include Cuba at future summits, as well as discussions about decriminalising drugs as a way of reducing cartel violence.
Instead, Obama will aim to highlight issues that are more politically palatable back home, namely the prospect of Latin America as a growth market for US businesses. The White House says 40 per cent of US exports are to the Western Hemisphere.
To make that point even before leaving the US, Obama will stop first in Tampa, Florida, for a speech tomorrow on the benefits of boosting trade ties with Latin America. Florida is a pivotal state in the general election. Obama will also join dozens of private sector executives from US companies at a CEO summit Saturday to discuss increasing business ties and trade with their Latin American counterparts.
The president planned to spend two nights in Cartagena and return to Washington late Sunday. In addition to the summit programme, Obama will hold a separate meeting with Caribbean leaders, a one-on-one meeting and news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
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