Colombia’s Santos Urges U.S. to End Cuba’s Isolation

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called the U.S.-backed blockade of Cuba a Cold War-era anachronism, and said the continued isolation of the communist island is unacceptable.

“The isolation, the embargo, the indifference, and looking the other way, have shown their ineffectiveness,” Santos said in a speech at the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena. “In today’s world, this path isn’t justified. It’s an anachronism that they are anchored in a cold war that ended decades ago.”

Santos flew to Havana in March to meet with President Raul Castro and head off the threat of a boycott by nations allied to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, frustrated by Cuba’s non- attendance. President Barack Obama has faced criticism on U.S. policy toward Cuba even from friendly leaders such as Santos and Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff.

“Just as it would be unacceptable to have another hemispheric meeting with Haiti still prostrate, so it would be without Cuba present,” Santos said in his speech.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa boycotted the meeting over Cuba’s absence, and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega also decided not to attend. Chavez pulled out of the meeting for cancer treatment in Cuba.

‘Old Empires’

Chavez yesterday criticized the U.S. and Canadian presence at the summit both for their opposition to Cuba’s attendance and also because they haven’t supported Argentina’s efforts to regain the Falkland Islands from the U.K.

“They oppose these issues because they’re part of the old empires,” Chavez said to a crowd of followers outside the presidential palace in Caracas. “One of the issues that we need to talk about at the summit is Yankee interventionism. How long will this go on for, Mr. Obama?”

The U.S. leader said his administration has done more than any in decades to improve U.S. relations with Cuba and blamed the communist regime for the country’s absence.

In an e-mail interview with a group of newspapers across Latin America, Obama said that by allowing increased family visits and the sending of remittances to Cuba, his administration has given the Cuban people hope for democracy. Obama said the Cuban authorities haven’t shown any interest in improving their record for human rights and respect for democracy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Bristow in Cartagena at mbristow5@bloomberg.net; Eric Martin in Cartagena at emartin21@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net.

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