The tension among the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean countries has not really changed for 100 years. The Caribbean countries believe they have been ignored by America because they are small, poor and Black. Many Latin American countries do not trust America because many of their political systems are socialist and at any time the U.S. can initiate an overthrow of their governments.
Wednesday, April 8, President Barack Obama started a grueling itinerary with three and a half days in Jamaica and Panama. He is the first president since Ronald Regan to visit Kingston, and the country is extremely proud of this historic trip. During this visit, Obama discussed energy, security and trade with Caribbean leaders.
Many analysts argue that the key reason Washington is suddenly paying attention to the Caribbean countries is because we are competing for their oil business, which Venezuelan controls. “As Petrocaribe is unraveling, the U.S. is taking advantage,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington. “The Caribbean islands have to look elsewhere for energy.”
There are no easy answers for the Caribbean islands because there are no major industries that contribute to their economic growth and development. The majority of these countries’ economies revolve around the tourist industry while the residents remain poor. Most of the people need jobs, and no one knows where to start.
After meetings and discussions in Jamaica for 24 hours, the president went to Panama. There, the country hosted the Summit of the Americas, with all 35 Western Hemisphere countries in attendance, including Cuba. Meanwhile, four countries, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria, are identified as terrorist countries. There is discussion right now inside the State Department to determine if Cuba should be removed from the list.
Three years ago, Obama, at the Summit of the Americas, left arguing against inviting Cuba to attend. This year, Cuba attended the summit and Obama met with President Raul Castro Saturday. At the meeting, the two presidents tried to make recommendations to normalize relations between their two countries.
This is Obama’s third summit, and he is bringing along $1 billion in foreign aid to assist Central American countries with security and economic investments. Latin American countries wanted America to remove its economic embargo against Cuba and take the country off the U.S. terrorism list. Obama appears to be listening, and the two countries are moving forward.
The United States and Panama also signed a deal in which Panama will purchase 61 Boeing 737 aircraft. John Earnest, a White House spokesman, says it means that 40,000 new jobs will be created at Boeing, General Electric and other businesses. The new 737-MAX jets have a list price of $106 million, and the atmosphere this year at the summit had a lot more smiles.
However, even though there were better relations at the summit, there are still major issues that must be resolved if Latin American economies are to continue to grow and prosper. Drug cartels, immigration issues, government corruption and monetary policies were discussed, but there are no easy solutions.
There is still tension with the United States, and some of the problems go back 50 to 100 years. The countries speak different languages and their political systems are different. Is Obama reaching out to his neighbors in the Western Hemisphere because China and Russia are making historic deals, or does he really care about the condition of the countries and the people?