Latin American leaders Saturday were united and outspoken in criticizing U.S. sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela as outdated measures reminiscent of the Cold War era.
Regional heads of state addressing the 7th Summit of the Americas, in Panama City, took turns to call on Washington to lift its half a century trade embargo against Cuba and revoke a recent decree declaring Venezuela “an unusual and extraordinary threat” to U.S. national security, which also carried economic sanctions against current and former government officials.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, leader of the region’s largest economy and the world’s 7th largest, said “Good hemispheric ties no longer allow unilateral measures and policies of isolation, they are counterproductive and inefficient. That is why we reject the sanctions against Venezuela.”
Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez was even more blunt, calling the decree “ridiculous.”
“I confess … that when I first heard the news I said ‘there must be some mistake’… It borders on the ridiculous that any country on our continent can pose a threat to the world’s most powerful nation,” said Fernandez, noting the U.S. military budget dwarfs Venezuela’s by hundreds of billions of dollars.
“It is a shame to have this summit overshadowed by that decree, ” she added.
Cuban leader Raul Castro repeated his country’s request that the U.S. lift the embargo, especially if it seeks to normalize relations, but also praised U.S. President Barack Obama for taking the bold step of recasting his country’s half a century foreign policy towards the socialist island nation.
Castro also condemned the sanctions and decree against Venezuela, as did successive leaders, including Bolivian President Evo Morales.
“Colleague Obama, it is time to listen not only to the voice of our peoples and governments, but to the voice of your own people, who must be tired of so much war,” said Morales. “It is time to learn that we must coexist in peace, harmony and with respect.”
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro announced a signature drive on a petition to have the decree revoked had been signed by upwards of 11 million Venezuelans, and would be delivered to Obama via diplomatic channels.
Latin American countries welcomed the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, but agreed much still needs to be done before diplomatic relations with the U.S. reflect the new reality of a more independent and integrated region.
“I totally believe that we are at a dawn of a new era,” said Maduro. “Let us take up the challenge of building ties based on respect and peace.” Enditem