April 19th, 2009
03:34 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama calls summit 'productive'

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago (CNN) - President Barack Obama concluded the 34-nation "Summit of the Americas" Sunday by calling it a "very productive" meeting that had proven hemispheric progress is possible if different countries are willing to set aside "stale debates and old ideologies."

He cited a potential thaw in relations between the United States and longtime adversaries Cuba and Venezuela, but said the ultimate test "is not simply words, but deeds."

Leaders did not "see eye to eye" on some important issues, but the meeting proved it is possible to "disagree respectfully," the president said.

Speaking to reporters before returning to Washington, Obama highlighted the importance of using American diplomacy and development aid in "more intelligent ways."

He had reached out to the Cuban government before the summit by lifting all restrictions on the ability of individuals to visit relatives in Cuba, as well as to send them remittances.

Obama noted that the leaders of other countries at the summit highlighted Cuba's program sending "thousands of doctors" throughout the hemisphere. A number of countries depend heavily on Cuba's medical assistance program.

"It's a reminder... that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction - if our only interaction is military - then we may not be developing the connections that can over time increase our influence and have a beneficial effect," he said.

Obama called Cuban President Raul Castro's recent indication of a willingness to discuss human rights issues "a sign of progress." But he said the Cuban government could send a much clearer, more positive signal by releasing political prisoners or reducing fees charged on remittances Americans send to relatives in the country..

Change in Cuba will not come quickly, Obama added, but it is good for other countries to see that "we are not dug in into policies that were formulated before I was born."

Turning to Venezuela, Obama conceded vast differences with Hugo Chavez on economic and foreign policy issues. But he said the strategic interests of the United States would not be endangered by having a "more constructive relationship" with the oil-rich nation.

Asked what an "Obama Doctrine" would be, he declined a specific answer, but outlined broad principles such as the importance of listening to other countries. The United States, Obama said, remains the most powerful nation in the world, but cannot solve problems such as climate change, drugs, and terrorism on its own.

"If you start with that approach, you are inclined to listen, and not just talk," he said.

Obama added that the United States is at its best when it stands "for universal ideals (such as) freedom of speech and religion. If we confess to having strayed from (our) values, it strengthens our hand (and) allows us to speak with greater moral force and clarity."

The president was criticized over the weekend by several leading Republicans - as well as former CIA director Michael Hayden - for releasing four Bush-era memos outlining terror interrogation methods used against suspected al Qaeda operatives.

Obama said when he released the documents Thursday that the U.S. needs to "right its course in concert with our core values."

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Enlightened Voter

    America, isn't it nice to have an intelligent dimplomat in the White House for a change instead of a man who turned the WORLD against us? Its not called weak it's called diplomacy, something most republicans know nothing about.

    April 19, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  2. Jack-NY

    policies of 50years ago don't work. It is a new world!!

    April 19, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. George Washington

    Nice article. I guess for sure, CNN and Rep Ensign would know what "irresponsible" means.

    April 19, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  4. The Broker.

    Well I just listened to Suan again. Her dream is coming true. She's Fantastic. This Guy and his months of Dreams, go nowhere.

    April 19, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  5. Tasha

    President Obama is a breath of fresh air. When it comes to the Obama doctrine, first should be listen. I, as well as the rest of the world appreciates his willingness to listen. To say President Obama is irresponsible for appearing or talking to Chavez, is very telling of the senator's own character flaw. I would ask does the senator listen to his constituents or does he say what they want to hear and does as he wants once elected?

    April 19, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  6. Ryan

    You can 'disagree respectfully', unless of course you're a citizen of Venezuela. But that's an inconvenient detail, no?

    April 19, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. Larry

    Obama is a great man ...

    It feels so nice to actually have a LEADER in the White House

    April 19, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. James

    If you don't like improving relationships between countries that were formerly unfriendly to each other, there's something wrong with you.

    April 19, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  9. Tina

    Ha! For all of u dumb obama critics on the moron john kings stotu show the president just shut u up again! Cnn ur dumb panel thought the picture of chavez was a big deal once, again the presidnt made u look stupid!

    April 19, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. Benjine-boston ma

    Respecting other communities and cultures. President Obama understands this all too well!!

    April 19, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  11. Sassiaaz

    .... and when will Pres. Obama take care of his job here ????? He does not know about tea parties, etc.... but jets around the world and trashes the USA, campaigning for what?????

    April 19, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  12. Joanna

    Wow finally a grown up approach! How refreshing.

    April 19, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. Kola, Lima Oh.

    I agree with you President Obama. Life is not about winning all the time. We disagree to agree and sometimes we agree to disagree. In each situation, we must do it with a sense of responsibility and respect. This is a dawn of a new diplomatic relation with other nations around the world, both our enemies and friends. The summit will definitely brings a fruitfull results in the future.

    April 19, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  14. Bill

    By shaking his hand Obama has just rent Chavez crazy rants mute. How does that compromise the US interests?

    When you are a master you dont have to be a bully unless you are insecure.

    April 19, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. Marjorie

    Throughout the primaries I was a staunch supporter of Senator Clinton. During the Presidential election I became a reserved supporter of Obama; In his speech to the nation after the election results were in, Obama made me feel like an American for the first time; I was proud of the United States and all those things that I was told about the meaning of being American actually felt true. All this to say that in his remarks about the importance of socio-historical and cultural issues and perspectives Obama once again made me feel proud to call myself American. Democracy does not exist in a vacuum, and the United Stated cannot presume to understand everything about democracy outside of the United States; we can promote our own interests while trying to more objectively shape our relationship with developing economies in Latin America. Common sense from American politicians; we'll just have to see where it takes us. I can honestly say now that I have complete faith in President Obama and I have an ever deepening respect for his administration.

    April 19, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. Obama/Biden

    These Republicans are not working on the American people's interest. They only seem to be criticizing everything the president do like taking a book from Chavez making it seem to be a big deal when it is not. They are just playing the same old Washington politics when here at home in the US the republicans are refused to vote for anything that the new government is working on to help our economy when our people are losing their homes, jobs, and saving. This is very irresponsible of the republicans part. I think that these republicans tend to forget that we have the saying when it come to election day. They may be in Washington now try to mask the nation by lying to us about the new administration, but we the people are still their bosses. If these republicans do not want to coorparate with the new government on our economy, they can forget about getting reelected next election.

    April 19, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. Bill

    GOP confuses "fear" with "respect". No one in their crazy minds doubts Americas military might, but that wont earn the US new markets for their manufactured goods if other countries dont want to deal with us.

    Obama is working for new markets for the next round of manufacturing, and I guess China which always benefits from anti-Americanism isnt smiling with this new offensive.
    Go BO we still have your back

    April 19, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  18. Flo

    That is the approach I've come to expect from president Obama and applaud him for not changing his strategy. Sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest; he knows he will be criticized by the Republican party but does not allow that to prevent him from reaching out. I respect his focus of diplomacy and look forward to a more peaceful world in 4-5 years down the line. Mr. Obama understand the art of communication and is willing to play the role as psychologist-in-chief. He allows these leaders to vent so that they can move on to more constructive dialogue down the road. Give one to the grown up (Obama).

    April 19, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  19. Tim

    It's easy to disagree respectfully on human rights when you don't appreciate the value of a human life.

    April 19, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  20. Kevin B

    OMG, what will the republicans do now that their "straw men" and "boogey men" are being taken off of the table by Mr Obama.

    The republican naysayers are being thrown into disarray by the deployement reason and thoughfulness, not reactionary fear and false pride and hubris.

    Just wait the republicans will have something horrible to say during the coming week to try and frighten the public..

    Go Mr Obama !

    April 19, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  21. neil

    Productive?? Nothing was agreed on, ask Obama to give one example.

    April 19, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  22. Neville meant well

    I'm just thankful he didn't bow.

    April 19, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  23. DB

    Very insightful comment, Bill, about the Chinese. I agree with all who believe that President Obama will indeed have the last laugh on those who criticize his every word and move. I believe that he knows exactly what he is doing and now even when I disagree with him (and I do, I like to think that I am a critical consumer of information) I try to figure out what he might be doing that I'm not seeing. I believe he is one step ahead of all of us.

    April 19, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  24. James Eric Joseph

    God bless pres Obama, there is a saying coated like this: “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies even closer”
    Obama indeed a man of common sense, repubz can go to sleep if they have nothing good to contribute.
    Repubz pls. come again in 36 years when you might have lean your lesson.

    April 19, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  25. Scott AZ

    I wonder where Obama would fly off to this coming week on his 'Bad mouth the USA tour.?

    April 19, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
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