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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
Summit of the Americas sealed reconciliation between Cuba and the United States
Latinamerica Press
4/17/2015
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At the same time, the People’s Summit made a calling to build and deepen “a new society with social justice and gender equality.”

The world’s attention was on the Seventh Summit of the Americas, held in Panama on Apr. 10 and 11: for the first time, Cuba participated in this presidential meeting that is sponsored by the United States, and for the first in over half a century, a Cuban president and a US president were face to face and shook hands.

In December, presidents Raul Castro, of Cuba, and Barack Obama, of the United States, simultaneously announced the opening of negotiations to restore diplomatic relations that have been broken since 1961.

In their bilateral meeting at the summit, Obama thanked Castro “for the spirit of openness and courtesy that he has shown during our interactions. And I think if we can build on this spirit of mutual respect and candidness, that over time we will see not just a transformation in the relationship between our two countries, but a positive impact throughout the hemisphere and the world.”

Castro, for his part, said that “it is essential that we are willing to discuss everything, including issues on human rights and press freedom. Everything can be discussed if done with mutual respect. We may convince each other of some things, but not of others.”

As for US relations with the region, Obama emphasized “a new relationship with Cuba. More trade and economic partnerships that reduce poverty and creates opportunity, particularly focusing on education. Increased people-to-people exchanges. More investments in our young people. Clean energy that combats climate change. Security cooperation to protect our citizens and our communities. That’s the new chapter of engagement that the United States is pursuing across the Americas.”

Castro hailed Obama’s “courageous decision to engage in a debate with the US Congress to end” the US blockade against Cuba that has been in place since 1960.

A step in this regard  was Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
 
Prosperity with equity
Although the summit revolved around the reconciliation between Cuba and the United States, the central theme, “Prosperity with equity: the challenge of cooperation in the Americas,” was addressed in the speeches of the 35 heads of states. Although the meeting ended without the signing of a final declaration, important agreements were reached in education, environment, public health, Internet coverage and migration.

The president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, said that “there was complete agreement in recognizing that the right to education without discrimination and equal access to quality education is vital in the effort to achieve comprehensive development, for eradicating poverty and inequality.” Moreover, he stated that “efforts to ensure universal access to health as a fundamental human right were reaffirmed.”

“Recognizing that democracy is essential for the social, political and economic development of peoples, we agreed to a set of mandates to strengthen the rule of law, separation and independence between the branches of government and respect for human rights, and in that sense we agreed to actions to promote and ensure public participation in the creation and implementation of public policies as well as in the empowerment of citizens, regardless of gender or race,” said Varela.

Simultaneously to the official event, the Summit of the Peoples, Unions and Social Movements of Our America was also held and hosted 3,500 delegates from across the continent. The People’s Summit final declaration called on the “imperative need to building and deepening a new society with social justice and gender equality, with the active participation of young people and of the different social actors, with solidarity as an essential principle for comprehensive and independent development of our people.”

With the imposition of the neoliberal economic model, which “has proven to be the most effective instrument for deepening poverty, misery, inequality, exclusion and the most inequitable distribution of wealth that is known,” the final declaration called for the “fight and defense of our natural resources, biodiversity, food sovereignty, our common resources, Mother Earth, the defense of the ancestral rights of indigenous peoples, achievements and social rights. The fight for jobs, work and a living wage, social security, pensions, collective bargaining, unionizing, the right to strike, freedom of association, occupational health, economic and social rights, respect for migrants and people of African descent, the eradication of child and slave labor, and justice with gender equity .”
—Latinamerica Press.


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