Bienvenido, Mr. President

By Anastasia Moloney

The April Summit of the Americas will provide a clue to President Barack Obama’s Latin America policy.

On April 17, The Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago, will host President Barack Obama’s inaugural visit to Latin America and the Caribbean. Even before Air Force One touches down in this Spanish colonial port, he is assured a warm welcome from the 33 other leaders of member nations of the Organization of American States (OAS) gathered for the Fifth Summit of the Americas.

Obama’s historic ascension to the White House “raises immense hope in the Americas,” declared OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. Most Latin American heads of state seem to agree, raising hopes that the Trinidad Summit, the second scheduled international event on Obama’s calendar (coming on the heels of a NATO meeting), will signal a new chapter in U.S.-Latin America relations.

“The summit is a great opportunity to break with the recent past,” said Adam Isacson, program director at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC. The themes of the Trinidad gathering—promoting human prosperity, energy security and environmental sustainability—take second place to the symbolic significance of having a very different U.S. leader present to argue Washington’s case.

According to Ambassador Hector Morales, U.S. Summit of the Americas coordinator, the summit is also “an optimum moment for President Obama to express his interest and commitment to the region.” Ahead of the summit, Obama would do well to implement the pledges made during his campaign and signal Washington’s greater commitment and multilateral engagement with Latin America, such as reinstating the post of Special Envoy for the Americas, pushing ahead with the closure of Guantánamo Prison and starting the proposed Energy Partnership for the Americas…

Anastasia Moloney is a freelance journalist based in Bogotá, a contributor to the Financial Times and a contributing editor at the Washington, DC-based website World Politics Review.

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