By Alexis R. Milan
Prime Minister Dean Barrow is attending this weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Panama, where regional leaders will converge, including the presidents of the United States, Venezuela and Cuba.
Barrow left Belize on Tuesday and made a presentation on Thursday at the second CEO Summit, which precedes the actual summit, under the theme “Bridging the Americas: Productive Integration for Inclusive Development.”
The summit, which is to be held on Friday and Saturday, is drawing much international attention as United States President Barack Obama and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are scheduled to attend. Venezuela, currently in economic straits, still wields significant influence in the Caribbean region with its PetroCaribe program, while the US has made clear its intention to re-establish its influence in the same region in terms of energy.
Likely to be brought up are the sanctions the US recently imposed on Venezuela after declaring the country a threat to its national security.
The sanctions themselves, however are limited, targeting seven current or former military, police, intelligence and judicial officials involved in corruption and a violent crackdown against the regime’s political opponents.
And while Maduro will likely try to rally supporters, another interesting storyline at the summit will be Cuba’s first appearance at the event ever.
Cuban President, Raul Castro’s participation in the summit reflects the normalization of relations between the US and that country, which led to the Obama administration announcing it would seek to establish an embassy in Cuba. The new policy towards Cuba also included relaxed travel restrictions for Americans looking to travel there.
It has also been reported that following the Summit of the Americas, the US may remove Cuba from its list of terrorism state sponsors. Some have speculated that the announcement may come as early as next week.
Thirty-seven countries from the hemisphere will be in attendance at the summit, which serves as a platform to discuss the economic and political challenges facing the region.