At least three points emerged from President Barack Obama's participation in last weekend's three-day Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.
The first was the importance of the United States staying in close, regular contact with the leaders of the other nations of the Western Hemisphere. The second was that Mr. Obama, like most other American political leaders, is unwilling to accept that the 41-year "war on drugs" has failed miserably and to consider possible alternatives. The third, illustrated by allegations that a presidential advance team of Secret Service agents and military personnel in Cartagena hired local prostitutes and committed other misconduct, is that Americans -- led by the media -- can be distracted from more important developments.
To what degree Mr. Obama attended the summit due to a sincere interest in improving Latin American relations, as opposed to trying to curry favor with the increasing number of Hispanic-American voters before the November election, is difficult to say and may not matter. He was there and talked with the other leaders. Whether there will ever be another such summit is unclear. The attending countries except Canada and the United States balked sharply at the continued exclusion of Cuba, clearly an important Latin American country. It was barred from the meeting because of America's futile "wait for the Castros to die or go away" policy of the past 53 years, dictated in large part by South Florida Cuban exiles.
If Mr. Obama felt anyone else's pain at the summit, it had to be that of the leaders of Mexico, the Central American states, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. Those countries have suffered and, in some cases, been riddled by death and corruption due to the unquenchable appetite of Americans for illegal drugs and the ill effects on the United States' southern neighbors.
Predictably, given the upcoming U.S. election, Mr. Obama did not entertain in his statements any change in policy in that regard, despite the almost desperate appeals by some Latin American leaders.
First Published April 18, 2012 12:00 AM