2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama: History in the Making!

Blog Joy Huppe

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An unprecedented historic political event is poised to unfold in Panama. The world waits in anticipation while the country prepares to host the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Panama City on April 10-11, 2015. The mounting excitement is not because this is the first time that Panama will be hosting the Summit (which it is), but rather because of a sudden and controversial turn of events, specifically between U.S. and Cuban relations. For the first time since the inception of the Summit in 1994, Cuba will be in attendance… and the buzz is that current U.S. president Barak Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro will shake hands!

Now, it is not that the hand-shake itself is so ground-breaking (even though it is!), but it is everything that it represents. After more than 50 years of the official U.S. ban on trade and other commercial activity with Cuba, the embargo is being dissolved. The White House announced their decision in December of this past year, only six days after Cuba was formally invited to the Summit. This is kind of a big deal…

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For the first time since it’s inception, U.S. president Barak Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro will both be present at the upcoming Summit.

You see, even though this will be the seventh time the Summit convenes, up until now Cuba was blacklisted due to tension with the U.S. However, numerous leaders at the last Summit insisted on Cuba’s presence, going so far as to threaten a boycott if an invitation was not extended. Specifically, Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Ecuador, Grenada, Nicaragua, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela were the ones putting on the pressure. Needless to say, controversy was brewing…   especially after the government of Panama issued an invitation to Cuba without the unanimous consent of the other members. At first U.S. Senators urged Panama to withdraw their invitation, asserting that the move could be a “slap in the face” to the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. However, a few short days later there were rumblings of a change of tune, and on December 17, 2014 the U.S. Government dropped it’s objections to Cuba’s presence, while simultaneously calling for the participation of Cuban civil society groups.   Though seemingly hasty, this decision was borne after 18 months of secret talks between Washington and Havana.

Overall, the shocking change-of-events was well received. Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, expressed the sentiments of many when he said, “This opens the door for everyone. We can now deal with matters together. It releases a lot of tensions and pressures.”

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Flags flying high at the last Summit, held in Colombia in 2012.

Several Latin American countries (including close U.S. allies Mexico and Colombia) applaud the action, as they believe that Washington’s policy towards Cuba had outlived its usefulness and had begun to contribute to increased polarization of the region. In fact, even critics of U.S. policy have levied praise, as exemplified by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro labeling the action “a courageous and historically necessary step.”

So what does this mean moving forward? It is hoped that with U.S.-Cuba tensions dissolving, and full representation of all the Americans (including North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America) finally possible, there is greater potential for more unity, prosperity, and equality than ever before.

The aim of the Summits of the Americas is to foster discussion of a variety of issues affecting the western hemisphere. Fittingly, this year’s central theme is ‘Prosperity with equity: the challenge of cooperation in the Americas’. The Summit is expected to address rising inequality, an issue that has recently come to the forefront after Oxfam released a report claiming that 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99% by 2016. For more information on the Summits of the Americas, click here.

We at Casa de Montaña are excited by the news and look forward to watching “history in the making.”   Terry daydreams of Obama visiting Boquete and tucking himself into a good night’s sleep in one of our large mountain-view rooms. (We think Obama would love the Quetzal room.) And although Obama has declared broccoli as his favorite food, we think Veronica’s French Crepes Breakfast could win him over.

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Breakfast fit for a president! Crepes at the ‘Casa…

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