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. Majik

    Once again Obama has proved that he is not only incompetent he is also naive.

    April 19, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. Herbert Wilson

    Your news media is critical of the success of President Obama's efforts to unify all nations. You think that the Republican philosophy that we are better than other countries is the right view point.
    How can we make this a better world with that warped sense of superiority that you obviously have. You and the republican party have done nothing but criticize the president since he won the election. You are so radical to the point that your governors want to cede from the union. The news media has the power to unite this country or destroy it. I think that you have made your choice.

    April 19, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  3. Maggie

    Perhaps he shouid hve given him a map of our country with all the wasy to sneak in.

    April 19, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. Had It

    Beats the heck out of the "my way or the highway" of bush/cheney/rumsfeld/rove/limbaugh, etc.

    Much better !!

    April 19, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. gary shuck

    It seems to this viewer, that your program and other CNN hosts always seem to push the negative rather than the positive in anything that Obama does or says. Ditto with Meet the Press. The positives of Obama's Americas' conference far outweigh the fact that he chortled a bit with Chavez. Our Latin American foreign policy since, at least the Nixon era have been less than stellar insofar as relation-building is concerned and the last eight years have been abysmal there and in the rest of the world. Sen. Ensign exemplifies his party's worst, not the U.S. best effort to restore our pride and world trust toward us.

    Gary Shuck

    April 19, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. Pat F

    He's been made a fool of, again, on an international stage. The First Buffoon.

    April 19, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  7. Ernie in LA

    What would you dems have said if Bush would have buddied up with all of these shady people? All of a sudden this is good for America? You are not satisifed that America is great but you want to drag it down with some other countries. Just go live there if you love their government so much.

    April 19, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  8. the rector

    I wonder what will be done about american owned assets which have been seized by the Chaves government? Surely that will be a stumbling block in normalizing relations right? Or will Obama bow and kiss his "ring" too?

    April 19, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  9. Michigan

    If Republicans can ever get beyond Obama's skin color, they might eventually be forced to admit that he knows what he's doing...well, I can dream.

    April 19, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. SJ

    Good job by our President. We have had failed policies with foreign countries for a lot more than 50 years.

    Keep up the good work President Obama.

    April 19, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  11. Joyce

    Obama did it again. Said all the right things. he rocks even here in canada. I will feel safe again now that he's on his way home

    April 19, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  12. Obama can't handle Somaili teens in row boats---..

    Somali teenagers laugh at Obama as they continue thier hijacking--Obama is the Commander in Chief of the largest Navy in the world and yet is pathetically helpless against 16 year old Somailis in rowboats. We need a real president.

    April 19, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  13. JonDie

    It was very productive. Finally the finally of the Americas don't feel like they are a doormat on which we North Americans wipe our feet. This will BENEFIT the United States.

    April 19, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  14. Dave NYC

    And guess the number one reason the trip was "productive?"

    You got it: we engaged directly and as equals with other heads of state. We did not play the bully card.

    You do not get anywhere by being pompous and above everyone else, as we learned from 8 years of "unproductive" international relations under Bush.

    April 19, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  15. lady in the know

    I guess I didn't realize that most of the world was so racist against us having a white President.

    April 19, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  16. ron

    obama COULD HAVE gone to the summit armed with facts on poverty levels and economic numbers of south american countries over the past two decades. he COULD HAVE talked about media shut downs and political prisoners if he had prepared himself, but then again, he probably agrees with these thug leaders, so why would he?

    nearly all of south america is led by thugs. i guess we're in support of that now? obama's silence only strengthens their positions, and hurts democratic movements. appeasement has never worked.

    April 19, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  17. Kathy

    Of course it was productive for him... He got his mug on TV the entire time. That's all he wants, should have tried out for the movies and left politics to someone with a brain.

    April 19, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. markens

    those conservatists do not have problems with spending. they have problems with obama being a blck president.

    April 19, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  19. Kevin B

    Mr Obama has taken the false choices and boogey men off of the table for the GOP with his recent travels abroad.

    It won't be long before the right wing radio talk show host and fox corporate news here at home try to drum up fear and insecurity within the weak minded and easily manipulated.

    April 19, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  20. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Obama and his supporters are just confused. They think if the world likes us, they'll also respect us. The Obama Doctrine of apologizing to the world and kissing the butts of people like Chavez and Castro will accomplish about as much as Camberlain's diplomacy with Hitler. Does anyone think Castro will suddenly throw open the doors of his prisons and let political prisoners out? Will Chavez stop blatantly socialist wealth redistributions by seizing private property and giving it to those who haven't worked to earn it? Unfortunately, just like Britain in the 1930's we will probably realize our grave error too late.

    April 19, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  21. Christine

    The GOP would like us all to believe that the rest of the world hating us isn't such a big deal, this is view I find greatly flawed in todays world. We live in a globel world with globel problems, our problems do not just effect us but the rest of the planet as well. If we are going to maintain our standing in the world, we must be open to that simple truth. We as a nation have been to a very dark place over the last 8 years, it's nice to see the light of day and not be looked apon as the big bullys in the playground anymore. Mr. Obama this American ex-Republican is behind you 100%. My husband serves proudly in your military and will you go were you tell him with pride. We salute you!

    April 19, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  22. The Broker.

    Money in the Bank: is just Cocoa Beans. If I own all the Chocolate in the World.

    April 19, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  23. President Obama could walk on water and the Party of NO would still complain that he left footprints!

    Congratulations President Obama, you are doing exactly what the majority that voted for you want.

    Re-establishing diplomacy by the use of intelligence and actually listening to the other side without having them capitulate to our view even before we sit down to talk to them.

    Now, that is leadership!

    April 19, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  24. barking republican ankle biters

    Scared little republicans,always barking and nipping at our ankles.Lets use our steel toes on them.

    April 19, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  25. Abdullah

    I'm just thankful he didn't bow to him.

    April 19, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
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