Friday, April 17, 2009

latin leaders aim to redefine u.s. relations

NYTimes | The conference is focused on “human prosperity,” energy security and environmental sustainability, but the global economy will be central for Latin American leaders, including Mr. da Silva, who is still smarting over how the crisis threatens to derail one of Brazil’s greatest periods of prosperity in a generation.

White House officials also worry that economic contagion could reverse the region’s growth and poverty alleviation in the past half-decade.

“In the last year, these achievements have started to dwindle away,” said Jeffrey S. Davidow, the White House adviser for the summit meeting. “There is a real concern that Latin America or the hemisphere may be entering into another lost decade.”

The Latin American leaders are hoping Mr. Obama will not shy away from subjects that have historically been taboo at such meetings. In the past, the United States has vetoed discussions about Cuba and shrugged off criticism of its drug policy.

But the Obama administration has signaled it agrees with some leaders in the region who want to rethink the approach to curbing drug violence. Several of the region’s leaders have also said in recent months that lifting the embargo with Cuba would go a long way toward repairing relations between Latin America and the United States.

American officials said this week that the president welcomed the discussion, but he is not expected to go beyond steps announced on Monday: lifting restrictions on travel and money transfers to Cuba by Cuban-Americans.

“They may not lift the embargo or legalize drugs, but there will be more space to talk about those kinds of things,” Mr. Shifter said. “Something could happen on these issues that hasn’t really happened before, which is an open debate. That is Obama’s style.”