Date: Fri, 19 Dec 2008 06:38:04 -0500
Subject: Latin America leaders tell Obama to end Cuba embargo
Latin America leaders tell Obama to end Cuba embargo
By Raymond Colitt Raymond Colitt Wed Dec 17, 8:41 pm ET
COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (Reuters) – Latin American leaders called on President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday to lift the 46-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba as soon as he takes office.
The leaders of 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations said the unilateral enforcement of sanctions was "unacceptable" and said Washington must comply with U.N. resolutions condemning the embargo imposed against Cuba at the height of the Cold War in 1962.
Meeting in northeastern Brazil, they demanded the immediate lifting of measures taken in the last five years by President George W. Bush to toughen the embargo against Cuba, where Fidel Castro seized power in a 1959 revolution.
Obama, who takes office on January 20, is expected to lift measures restricting cash remittances and travel to Cuba by Cubans living in the United States. But he has said will keep the embargo to encourage democratic change in the one-party state.
Cuba has won more friends in Latin America in recent years as center-left and socialist presidents have been elected and U.S. influence has declined sharply.
Showing their greater independence from the United States, the region's leaders welcomed Cuba into the so-called Rio Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries
Cuban President Raul Castro, who took over earlier this year after his brother Fidel Castro fell ill, was feted by fellow leftists at the summit meeting here.
The Latin American leaders also pressed for a bigger say in world affairs, saying the global economic crisis was not of their making but was undermining their countries' stability.
They were fiercely critical of rich countries as the source of the crisis which has slowed growth in the region as commodity prices fall and foreign capital dries up.
Ecuador last week defaulted on its foreign debt, sparking fears of other defaults. Venezuela may have to slash spending if oil prices remain low, and other countries will face cash squeezes as mining and agricultural exports fall in value.
"We have an important part to play in building a new international economic and political architecture,
" said Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the summit host.
"I'm worried. Every day the risk premium of my country rises and in the United States it's zero. Something is wrong," Lula added.
But beyond the calls for greater unity, divisions were evident between anti-American leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia and centrists such as Lula and Michelle Bachelet of Chile, who are keen to maintain friendly relations with the United States.
"Let's not blame all evil on the empire," said Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez.
Morales proposed giving the United States a deadline to lift sanctions against Cuba after which the region should withdraw its ambassadors from Washington.
But Lula said Obama should first be given a chance to present his policies on Latin America.
Yet even the good-hearted Lula could not resist poking fun at Bush over the weekend incident in Baghdad where an irate Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at the outgoing U.S. president during a news conference.
Lula jokingly threatened to throw a shoe at Chavez if the long-winded socialist leader spoke beyond his allotted time.
And at a news conference later, Lula quipped to reporters: "Please, nobody take off your shoes."
(Editing by Anthony Boadle and Kieran Murray)
Castro offers to exchange dissidents for 'Cuban 5'
December 18, 2008 3:02 PM ET
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - Cuban President Raul Castro has offered to exchange political dissidents in his country for five Cubans jailed in the U.S. on espionage convictions.
Castro also repeated his government's willingness to discuss the U.S. embargo against Cuba with incoming President Barack Obama.
Castro made his remarks Thursday after meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on his20first official visit outside of Cuba .
Answering a question about political prisoners in Cuba , Castro said: "We will send those prisoners you talk about (to the United States ) with their families. But give us back our five heroes."
He was referring to the "Cuban Five," who were convicted in 2001 on espionage charges and considered heroes in Cuba .
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COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (AP) — Latin American nations should expel U.S. ambassadors until the United States lifts its embargo on Cuba, Bolivian President Evo Morales said Wednesday.
Morales made the demand while speaking at a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in this beach resort in northeastern Brazil.
Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia in September, accusing him of siding with violent opposition protests.
Both Morales and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez have expressed hopes that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama might end the embargo.
The summit that ends Wednesday has been a victory lap of sorts for Cuba, newly admitted into th e Rio Group of Latin American nations, and with President Raul Castro on hand.
Many Latin American nations oppose the U.S. embargo of Cuba, but none has cut ties to the U.S. because of it.
The press attache for the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, Orna Blum, declined to comment on Morales' statement, but said that "our policy toward Cuba seeks the promotion of the peaceful transition to democracy" and said it "reflects a broad hemispheric commitment to democracy and human rights as expressed in the Inter-American Democratic Charter."
Luis Barrios, Ph.D., BCFE
Chair & Professor
Department of Latin American & Latina/o Studies
Joh Jay College of Criminal Justice-City University of New York
445 West 59 Street, Room 4115-N
New York, New York 10019
Office: (212) 237-8747
FAX: (212) 237-8664
Web Page: www.jjay.cuny.edu
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