Obama gets an earful at start of Trinidad summit

April 18, 2009

PORT OF SPAIN – President Barack Obama got an earful Friday from Latin American leaders at the Summit of the Americas who seemed happy with a change in tone by Washington but not quite
ready to ignore historic grievances.
SUMMIT/AMERICAS 
In opening remarks, several leaders skewered the United States for a variety of transgressions:
 
– Its history of racial discrimination,
 
– U.S. support of Britain in the Falklands war with Argentina,
 
– U.S. backing of Nicaragua’s Contra rebels,
 
– Washington’s bid to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
 
But nobody was blaming Obama for any of this.
 
“This is in no way intended to be understood as a reproach to him,” Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said, her remarks simultaneously translated.
 
“Far from this being intended to sound as a telling off, I’m just trying to recap on the things that have happened to us … and thereby try to build something new from now on,” she said.
 
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega didn’t blame him either. He noted Cuban President Raul Castro had pointed out Obama could hardly be taken to task over the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.
 
“He (Raul) said, ‘Daniel, President Obama was born on Aug. 4, 1961,” Ortega said. “He doesn’t have any responsibility for that historic event.”
SUMMIT/AMERICAS 
“I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old,” Obama quipped later.
 
But he urged the leaders to move beyond old disagreements.
 
Detouring from his prepared text, Obama said: “I think it’s important to remind my fellow leaders that it’s not just the United States that has to change. All of us have responsibilities to look toward the future.”
 
He said Washington should not interfere with other countries, but added, “that also means that we can’t blame the United States for every problem that arises in the hemisphere.”
 
“The American people have to get some positive reinforcement if they are to be engaged in the efforts to lift other countries out of the poverty that they’re experiencing.”
 
An administration official said Obama statements were “a very thoughtful reaction to some of the comments earlier in the night, which I think we all thought were remarkable.”
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria (Obama at Fifth Summit of the Americas); Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega walks behind Obama)

6 comments

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So Cuba wants to talk without conditions? Not until they’re willing to release the many thousands of political prisoners from their miserable pig-pen gulags. Why is it that liberals make so much noise about the imprisonment of 250 Islamic terrorists at Gitmo, but not a peep about the thousands of innocent Cuban citizens whose only crime is speaking a public word of criticism about Dictator Castro and his antiquated and oppressive communist regime??

Posted by Van | Report as abusive

Probably because the vast majority of the prisoners at Gitmo are innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants. Many detainees clearly have no connection to al-Qaeda and the Taliban and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pakistanis turned many people over for $5,000 a head, their only crime being speaking a public word of criticism about their own government. Exactly the same thing you are whining about.

Posted by getplaning | Report as abusive

and – probably because – It is us. It is the US. The United States. We have much higher standards than what is demonstrated at Gitmo (contrary to what the Neo=cons have said about me and all like thinkers). I have morals. We set the standards. Darn time someone started talking instead of drawing six gun. We don’t do things because everyone else does. We do what is right. We lead by example. Now, does this not sound like something you would tell your kids? Why is this not good for our country as well? Whinners whine because it is sport.

Posted by eloise | Report as abusive

Van, look into why there was a revolution in Cuba in the first place. Isn’t history fun?

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive

these are historic times eric,”the day of the liberals”.it is all yours,open field.the voice of conservatism is past,enjoy the perfect world ahead.the outcome hopefully will be like the ending of the movie” the time machine liberals can skip and dance into the future,and the nasty opposition is now “invalid”.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

3 months after the Bay of Pigs -April 1961 (04/61 means he was born in January 1961(01/61). That’s probably the truth… Just a Fruedian slip, all the more reason he should prove himself ti the Amercan People.

Posted by Dall | Report as abusive