Despite Obama charm, Americas summit boosts U.S. isolation

Mon Apr 16, 2012 4:02pm GMT

By Brian Ellsworth

CARTAGENA, Colombia (Reuters) - President Barack Obama patiently sat through diatribes, interruptions and even the occasional eye-ball roll at the weekend Summit of the Americas in an effort to win over Latin American leaders fed up with U.S. policies.

He failed.

The United States instead emerged from the summit in Colombia increasingly isolated as nearly 30 regional heads of state refused to sign a joint declaration in protest against the continued exclusion of communist-led Cuba from the event.

The rare show of unity highlights the steady decline of Washington's influence in a region that has become less dependent on U.S. trade and investment thanks economic growth rates that are the envy of the developed world and new opportunities with China.

It also signals a further weakening of the already strained hemispheric system of diplomacy, built around the Organization of American States (OAS) which has struggled to remain relevant during a time of rapid change for its members.

Seen as an instrument of U.S. policy in Latin America during the Cold War, the OAS has lost ground in a region that is no longer content with being the backyard of the United States.

"It seems the United States still wants to isolate us from the world, it thinks it can still manipulate Latin America, but that's ending," said Bolivian President Evo Morales, a fierce critic of U.S. policy in Latin America and staunch ally of Venezuela's leftist leader Hugo Chavez.

"What I think is that this is a rebellion of Latin American countries against the United States."   Continued...

Saint Lucia's Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, Grenada's Prime Minister Tillman Joseph Thomas, Barbados' Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Jamaica's Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, U.S. President Barack Obama, Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Belize's Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega, Guyana's President Donald Ramotar, Saint Vincent and Grenadines' Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, (front row, L-R), Haiti's Foreign Minister Laurent Lamothe, Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, Antigua and Barbuda's Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer, Bahamas' Deputy Prime Minister Theodore Brent Symonette, Dominican Republic's President Leonel Fernandez, Saint Kitts and Nevis' Prime Minister Denzil Douglas and Suriname's President Desi Bouterse (back row, 2nd L-R) pose for a picture at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia April 15, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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