There were famous faces missing and a distinct lack of coordination as the Summit of the Americas drew to a close in Trinidad and Tobago.
But, despite a less than perfect closing “family photo” and the failure to agree on a joint declaration, the event has ended amid optimism and goodwill. Barack Obama has said he can see “potential positive signs” of better US relations with Venezuela and Cuba. He had already set the tone for the summit by easing parts of the US trade embargo on the Communist-ruled island. And, while he reiterated calls for Cuba to improve political freedoms, Obama’s outlook was upbeat. “The fact that you had Raul Castro say he is willing to have his government discuss with ours, not just issues of lifting the embargo but issues of human rights, political prisoners – that is a sign of progress,” the US President told reporters. However, post-summit Raul’s brother, Fidel Castro, appeared less than impressed, reiterating calls for an end to the blockade. A draft summit declaration was issued but there was no formal joint signing ceremony. A group of mostly leftist presidents, led by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, had previously rejected the document.Their objections include the fact that it did not address Cuba’s exclusion from the summit or ending the embargo. Nonetheless, back home in Caracas, longtime Washington critic Chavez said: “We have witnessed what was unthinkable a few years ago – the government of the United States changing directions.” And sending ambassadors back to each other’s countries could be the next step in repairing relations.