Obama Turns Diplomatic Eye Toward Caribbean


The tension between the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean countries has not really changed for one hundred years. The Caribbean countries believe they have been ignored by America because they are small, poor and Black. And, many of the 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 government.

On Wednesday, April 8, 2015, President Obama started a grueling itinerary for 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, President Obama discussed energy, security and trade with other 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 that Venezuelan controls. “As Petrocaribe is unraveling, the U.S. is taking advantage,” says 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 economy revolves around the tourist industry, and 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. In Panama, the country hosted a Western Hemisphere summit where all 35 countries attended, including Cuba. There are four countries: Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Styria that are identified as terrorist countries in the world. There is discussion right now inside the State Department as to determine if Cuba should be removed from the list.

Three years ago, President Obama, at the Western Hemisphere summit, left arguing against inviting and allowing Cuba to attend. This year Cuba attended the summit and President Obama met with President Castro on Saturday. At the meeting, the two presidents tried to make recommendations to normalize relations with the two countries.

This is President Obama’s third summit, and he is bringing along $1 billion in foreign aid to assist Central American countries with security and economic investments. The Latin American countries wanted America to remove the economic embargo against Cuba, and take the country off the U.S. terrorist list. President Obama appears to be listening, and the two countries are moving forward.

The United States and Panama have also signed a deal where the country will purchase 61 of the U.S. airplane giant’s 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 this summit are a lot more smiles.

Even though  there are better relations at the summit, there are still major issues that must be resolved if the Latin American economies continue to grow and prosper. Drug cartels, immigration issues, government corruption, and monetary policies are being discussed at the summit, but there are no easy solutions.

There is still tension with the United States and some of the problems go back fifty to one hundred years. The countries speak different languages and their political systems are different. Is President 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?