Amid the historic inclusion of Cuba to the Organization of American States and U.S. bellicosity toward Venezuela, the Summit of the Americas commenced in Panama Friday, 7 p.m. local time.
Pope Francis, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and outgoing Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza all gave inaugural speeches.
Insulza said he was glad to live through such historic times, including the “negotiations for Colombian Peace,” and “the U.S. and Cuba re-establishing diplomatic relations.”
He said he hopes conflicts are never resolved with violence again, calling anything other than dialogue “unnacceptable.”
“Dialogue is the best way to resolve differences. We are committed to peace...”
All three men spoke of challenges the region face, including immigration, energy provision, corruption and enforced disappearences.
“The region is re-establising its reputation as a zone of peace,” Ban said in his speech.
The two-day meeting includes all 35 heads of state from North, Central and South America. The world will be watching the summit as U.S. Barack Obama will also meet in person with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro. This will be the leaders’ first ever formal meeting and is significant since the U.S.’s recent shift in foreign policy toward the tropical island nation after half a century of frozen diplomacy and the first time Cuban and U.S. presidents have met since before the island ’s 1959 revolution.
In his inagural speech, Ban congratulated Obama and Castro for the step forward they have taken in deciding to re-establish relations. He praised Cuba for hosting Colombia’s peace talks between government and FARC delegates.
Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations tweeted the arrival of President Raul Castro at the summit.
Ban outlined the importance of women in development in the Americas, highlighting that the Americas have the highest number of women in politics in the world. He stressed the importance of African American communities, as well as indigenous populations and young people. He said the latter face some of the toughest challenges in the region, especially due to organized crime and the drug trade.
The U.N. chief said also that overcoming inequality and poverty in the Americas was fundamental to change the region for the better.
Washington’s aggressive stance toward Venezuela is also expected to be high on the agenda.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro carries a box symbolizing Venezuela’s international petition to the United States to revoke its executive order declaring Venezuela a threat. The issue is likely to be divisive at the summit. | Photo: AVN
One day earlier “the people's summit of the Americas,” an alternative gathering meant to counter the head of states' meeting with one starring social movements, began.
More to come...