Tue, April 10, 2012
World > International Organizations

OAS summit hardly sees a united America

2012-04-10 07:10:58 GMT2012-04-10 15:10:58(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

by Xinhua writers Zhou Jianxin, Pan Guojun

MEXICO CITY, April 9 (Xinhua) -- The sixth Summit of the Organization of American States (OAS) will be held later this week in Colombia with the theme of "Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity," but observers say it is hard to realize the aspirations of unity and cooperation at the gathering.

This was due to the conflicts between the left and right-wing governments, and different positions on many important issues in the western hemisphere. The summit is scheduled for April 14-15 in the northern Colombian city of Cartagena de Indias.

First of all, some experts said the theme "connecting the Americas" did not reflect the divided political situations in the western hemisphere.

The United States has sought to sign free trade agreements with some Latin American countries after it failed to set up the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a plan that the country began to promote since 1994.

Meanwhile, Latin America's left-wing governments focused on setting up economic alliances and integrated organizations, such as the Common Market of the South and the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean (ALBA), hoping to stand up to the United States as an equal.

U.S. President Barack Obama hoped to build an equal partnership and start a new chapter in bilateral relations based on "dignity, equality, and respect" with Latin American countries since he took office.

However, the relations between the United States and Latin America in politics and economic cooperation have not improved during the past three years.

Considering the current political disparity in the western hemisphere, it is hard for American countries to realize the theme of the sixth summit in the near future.

Moreover, various topics for discussion in the OAS summit make it impossible to reach general consensus on important regional issues.

The American countries will discuss topics such as eliminating poverty, caring for poor children, strengthening cooperation against drug trafficking and organized crimes, and facing natural disasters and climate change, according to an OAS press release.

Besides, the Central American countries will discuss the decriminalization of taking drugs, which was opposed by the United States immediately after it was proposed.

Also, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Anglo-Argentine war, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez will reaffirm her country's sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands at the summit, also called Falkland Islands by Britain, and seek the backing of Latin American countries.

Analysts said it was impossible to discuss all the topics in the several-hour summit, and presidents with close relations will probably discuss some issues at the sidelines, just as they did at the 5th summit three years ago.

Furthermore, like the drug issue, Cuba has long been a source of irritation between the United States and Latin American countries.

Most of the Latin American countries called for resuming Cuba's full legal membership of the OAS since the island nation was suspended from the organization in 1962 at the height of the Cold War and has been absent from all the past five summits.

The suspension was officially lifted in the Honduras summit of 2009, and 34 OAS member states including the United States agreed that Cuba could rejoin the organization.

However, the Obama administration argued that Cuba had not met an OAS charter requirement on member states to be democracies and did not allow Cuban leaders to attend the summit.

In February, the nine-member bloc ALBA, including Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia, said the bloc would collectively boycott the conference if Cuban leader remains excluded from the sixth summit.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa became the first leader to boycott the upcoming summit, saying on April 2 that he would not attend future summits until Cuba was invited.

If that happens, the Cartagena summit will become the least integrated summit in the western hemisphere and create a larger split between the OAS countries.

Colombia, as the host nation of the summit, called on ALBA leaders not to boycott the conference, and President Juan Manuel Santos visited Cuba to discuss the island country's possible participation with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro.

However, Havana refused to return to an organization "used by Washington as a platform for its domination plans in Latin America."

Andres Oppenheimer, a famous Latin American expert, said the boycott by the left-wing governments would not be fully carried out, though the clashes over Cuba would probably remain a major topic for the summit.

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