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Banderas de América

By now Hugo Chavez and many other presidents have indicated the necessity that the US trade blockade of Cuba be addressed in the document. Canada, too, is not happy with the document, albeit for other reasons.

Brazil's Lula de Silva is perhaps, the most important president attending the Summit. Besides the reality that his country is poised to become a global economic powerhouse in the near future, it is home to what has been described as "the lungs of Earth", the Amazon forest. No discussion on global warming can exclude Brazil, and, to a lesser extent, countries like Guyana, Venezuela and several in Central America that are also blessed with vast swaths of tropical forests.

But since the media and most people see the Summit as a Barack-Hugo encounter there are some issues that must be discussed. The first is respect for the sovereignty of nations.

Traditionally, the US being the world's biggest consumer nation, and the mightiest military power, has thrown its weight around for far too long. That was accepted for the whole world before the global recession that is rooted in American financial environment triggered a contagion that adversely affected the entire world. Today, we all feel worried for President Obama whose job iss to clean up the mess his predecessors have left him.

Obama has tackled this problem head on. Whether his trillion-dollar stimulus would work is left to be seen. But he has come down hard on the bandits who are stealing even from the bailout-pot, those who believe it's their right to live the good life at the expense of ordinary Americans and poverty-stricken people and nations around the world. His plan to use most of the money to "put America back to work" would, if properly monitored, address that country's ageing infrastructure and realign its productive priorities. His alternative energy thrust is laudable.

More important, the President has not assumed the arrogance of his predecessors. He speaks as an equal.

Chavez faced similar problems when he first came to power. There are too many people who point to poverty levels in Venezuela and cast blame on Hugo's socialist policies. But poverty in that oil-rich nation was institutionalised by the capitalist policies of his predecessors.

If anything, Hugo, like Barack, has started programmes that are lifting the poor out of their misery, focussing on education, health, housing and utilities. Should he remain in power for another ten years, Venezuela will be a far better country than it was ten years ago.

The other contentious issue is that of the exclusion of Cuba from the Summit. Almost all the leaders attending the Summit see this as a big mistake much the way they view the US economic blockade that has served only to strangle Cuba.

Obama has made some pre-Summit concessions, easing the travel ban and remission of money. He needs to do two things more: lift the blockade and get out of Guantanamo. The issue is not the prison: it is one of Cuba's sovereignty over its own land.

Realistically, Barack cannot make these two changes overnight.

To exclude Cuba from the OAS, hence the Summit, on the basis that it is not a democratic country is hypocritical. An what about China, Vietnam ans some Arab countries?

There are no valid reasons for excluding Cuba from the OAS or any other hemispheric organisation. This is what Chavez and other presidents are arguing at the Summit.

It is an issue that must be resolved sooner rather than later. Obama would win global admiration if he were to dismantle the blockade and return Guantanamo to Cuba during his first term in the White House. Nothing less is acceptable to those who seek a just world, a world without war, a world in which all men (and women) who were born equal are allowed to enjoy that equality.

Source: AP

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