By TONY WRIGHT
The Fifth Summit of the Americas has concluded with regional leaders agreeing to pursue joint solutions to address the Caribbean and Latin America’s most pressing challenges.
Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, who served as chairman and host of the Summit, signed the Declaration of Port of Spain Sunday, which outlines key areas in which the countries will work towards common goals.
The 97-paragraph document, which was negotiated by the countries over the past seven months and adopted on Sunday by consensus, places an emphasis on fighting poverty and promoting development and social justice, and states: “deep inequalities continue to exist in our countries and in our region”.
In signing the document, Manning said the declaration was not supported unanimously.
“The declaration itself did not have the approval of all 34 countries,” said Manning. “Some countries had reservations about some elements of it and that is understandable because it is very difficult with 34 countries meeting and negotiating positions.”
Manning attributed the discord to the Declaration’s failure to reflect changes in global economic and political policies caused by the international financial crisis.
The Prime Minister also said the leaders discussed the state of turmoil in Haiti. He said Haitian President, René Préval, submitted several proposals to help improve the social and economic lives of residents of the poverty-stricken nation.
“None of us could rest comfortably in the knowledge that such a situation rests on our doorsteps and therefore there was a general spirit of commitment and co-operation in doing something about Haiti,” Manning said, adding that the proposal will be discussed at the next Organization of American States Meeting, scheduled for June 1.
Overall, Manning said he was “extremely pleased” with the outcome of the three-day meeting, which was described by other leaders, including United States President, Barack Obama, as “very productive”.
Obama added that the Summit has proven that hemispheric progress is possible if different countries are willing to set aside “stale debates and old ideologies.” He also noted what he felt was a thaw in relations with Cuba and Venezuela.
Obama dismissed criticism by U.S. Republican Senator, John Ensign, over his cordial meeting with Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, at the Summit.
“It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States,” Obama said.
“What we showed here is that we can make progress when we’re willing to break free from some of the stale debates and old ideologies that have dominated and distorted the debate in this hemisphere for far too long.”
Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, lauded Obama for opening “a new era of dialogue” in the Americas and said the success of the deliberations had surprised critics who anticipated conflict between the leaders.
“I think the remarkable thing about the Summit was the failure to fulfill expectations of great confrontation here,” he said.
Harper said that the involvement of CARICOM leaders in the discussions served “as a tremendous voice of reason and of openness at those times when dialogue did get heated without steering us away from those disagreements”.
And, Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, might have already made his pick for ambassador to the United States, according to a report from a CNN affiliate Saturday.
Chavez was quoted on GloboVision as saying that he has chosen Roy Chaderton, his country’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, as his candidate for the post.