Costa Rica president set for Trinidad summit

April 3, 2009

The Costa Rican government has confirmed President Oscar Arias on Friday will attend the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, an event the government has been billing as the first opportunity for Arias to finally come face to face with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Meeting through Sunday in Port of Spain, leaders are expected to discuss the global economic crisis, poverty, job creation, the environment and sustainable development, among other topics, according to a Casa Presidencial press release issued Tuesday.

Obama likely will also face a barrage of criticism over U.S. policy toward Latin America following a legacy left here by his disliked predecessor, George W. Bush. Latin American leaders have been calling on Obama to live up to his drumbeat for change.

“I would love it if President Obama were thinking of a good neighbor policy,” Arias said in a statement.

According to 34-member-state Summit of the Americas informational Web site (www.summit-americas.org), the event´s “overarching objective is to attend to the needs of the 800 million citizens of the Americas.” The Trinidad summit will be the fifth, following the 2005 summit in Mar de Plata, Argentina, 2001 in Quebec City, Canada, 1998 in Santiago, Chile, and 1994 in the U.S. city of Miami, Florida.

Accompanying Arias this Friday will be Foreign Minister Bruno Stagno, Communications Minister Mayi Antillón, Environment Minister Jorge Rodríguez and Costa Rican Ambassador to the Organization of American States Jorge Enrique Cantillo.

Ahead of the summit, on Thursday Obama travels to Mexico City to engage in an ongoing dialog with Mexican President Felipe Calderón on drug-fueled violence, a topic that will possibly earn a spot on the agenda later in Trinidad.

But Cuba´s continued exclusion from the OAS and its summits could top the agenda, at least for the growing number of Latin American leaders advocating closer U.S. engagement with the Caribbean island nation.

United States´ longstanding trade embargo on Cuba faces ever greater opposition in Latin America, where the last holdouts in shunning Cuba – Costa Rica and El Salvador – have promised to reestablish diplomatic relations with Havana.

The United States, however, took a critical step this week toward thawing the government´s Cuba policy, lifting restrictions on Cuban American travel and the sending of remittances and gifts to the Caribbean country, as well as enabling U.S. telecommunications firms to begin dealing with Cuba. Click here for details on Washington´s new policy on Cuba.

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