April 19th, 2009
03:34 PM ET
13 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. Pat Omaha, NE

    Thank you, Mr. President!
    I am smiling and have a great deal of joy and hope that my little 6 month old grandson will have a great new world in which to grow!!
    Thank you!

    April 19, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  2. carol

    I don't think we would talking about this if Hillary Clinton became the President. This is refreshing!

    April 19, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  3. rather than label good guys / bad guys

    Obama is actually engaging the world, better than the ostrich in the sand approach of the last 8 years

    April 19, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  4. Ivan

    Those of us who believe in Mr. Obama and his completely new, in tune attitude towards the world must make sure he gets enough time to complete the great work he has started.
    To let a bunch of overgrown bullies back into the White House would be tragic and disastrous. Those who have tea parties and criticize endlessly are surely dying of jealousy. They must never be allowed to put America back in the hole they dug.

    April 19, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  5. Eileen

    Once again – well done Mr. President. Restoring our integrity and opening new doors.

    April 19, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  6. Bosworth

    If "productive" means "blame everything on Bush," then the summit was a SMASHING SUCCESS. If, however, "productive" refers to anything advancing socio-economic or political objectives, then, like Europe, it was probably a failure.

    April 19, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  7. Chuck

    President-elect of the the United States of America, the honorable Barack Obama, I congratulate you in your ongoing and extraordinary efforts to bring this country back to what it should be. God bless you.

    April 19, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  8. Frieda


    yes, he went there and heard Ortega and Chavez trash America and he kept his silent ...that's productive? Instead of defending America, he only defended himself by saying he was only 3 months old when America was doing all that stuff??? that's was his reply to Ortega...just amazing

    Excuse me, didn't he use the same excuse when he was questioned about his association with terrorist Ayers?

    I hate to say it that Sarah Palin was right when she said "Obama palling around with terrorists??? what Obama is doing now , "palling around with dictators and America haters"

    April 19, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  9. The Broker.

    I am listening to Susan again, CNN. When you have no talent yourself.
    You ignore Super-Stars. Some who can do. Others just talk about it.

    April 19, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  10. Phoenix

    It's funny how the same republican individuals that supported policies and proceedures that got us into this mess internationally condemn Obama for his concerted efforts to undo all that crap. YES! The old ways of diplomacy and U.S. against the world are over.

    It's even more funny that a 10 second video clip can be mulled over and turned into a huge ordeal when it's but a drop in the bucket to an over all situation or scenerio. Obama is able to communicate and get people and nations that had no interest in cooperating to open up. 10 fold of anything the Bush administration accomplished internationally.

    April 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  11. carol

    look GOP, I feel your pain,alright? It is really hard to be the minority......

    April 19, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. Cheryl

    You know what? Stuff it, you republican obstructionist with NOTHING productive to do or say. You people are losers...you have done nothing but fight this country for years. Well, here's some good advice my grandma taught me, "if you can't think of anything good to say, don't say anything at all."

    You and your worthless, America hating, republican party would do well to figure out everything you say and everything you do is WRONG. The people rejected you. shut up.

    April 19, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  13. Simmy

    I'm happy with you Mr. President. Thrilled that you released the "Bush-Era-Memos," and decided not to prosecute CIA agents. Let those who feel they must 'go there.' There's too much on your plate. You are a wise and prudent leader. You show it by the manner in which you handle all leaders. Some who hate you today will love you tomorrow, and visa versa. "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you....Yours is the earth...my son......(R. Kipling).

    April 19, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  14. Vicki

    I love reading this site, because it is the reason why America is "rotten from the core." If White Presidents can shake hands with their enemies (China, Russia, etc), the first African American President can't do the same. Let's get honest here, people are mad that the President is BLACK! Stop with the crazy tea parties and call this for what it is. The GOP is dead. If you don't have a solution to the problem then shut up and let those who do work it. I appreciate this man's hard work to restore the economy, and the prestige and MORAL authority of America.

    Get out of the country and you'll find out that there are other citizens of the world! We are not the only humans living on this planet. It's better to make an enemy your friend. As a veteran, I appreciated it when diplomacy WORK! Otherwise, some young man and woman in the military will have to go FIGHT over something that could have been talked out by CIVILIAN leadership. Support the President and support our troops! They are tired and should be given a break from stupid folks who don't know how hard it is behind the scene.

    April 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. Bobbie in Maryland

    Thank GOD! Finally a President who is willing to dialog & not dictate to everybody else in the world what they should & shouldn't do!!
    A breath of fresh air.
    GO OBAMA...(& your little dog too!)

    April 19, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. Rich

    Feel free to offer evidence to the contrary, but from everything I've read and heard about Chavez his issue was with Bush specifically, not the U.S. in general. Hardly a unique sentiment even in the U.S., where Bush enjoyed approval ratings at or near the bottom of those of any former president. Let's not confuse despising Bush with hating the U.S., because the former line is considerably longer than the latter.

    April 19, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. Jackson

    It seems to me many of the people making negative comments on here never actually listen to the president speak.

    April 19, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    If you can't keep up with changes in the world we live in, then join the GOP and let them take you back to the stoneage. For me and my family we chose to move forward with the rest of the world.

    April 19, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  19. The Broker.

    Finding a position today, is like adding a new part to your system/computer. If it slows it down, what use is it?

    April 19, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  20. ib

    Well done Mr. President; you did what you wanted to do; get closer to Chavez. By the way did you take any tips from him on how to rule your country since you didn't defend her?????

    April 19, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  21. Linda

    I am so impressed with our President. Finally, someone who actually is a peace maker. Great work Mr. Obama!

    April 19, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  22. InlandEmperor

    Thank you Mr. President. It is refreshing to have leadership that has a clue...and a vision...for the best non-partisan future for our country. This President is American first... partisan politics will hopefully become a thing of the past.

    April 19, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  23. Eric

    President Obama engaging in talks with Chavez is productive in the sense that it shows America is open to discussion. What did this country concede? Chavez is most likely sending someone to represent his country which he wouldn't do while Bush was in office, and I don't blame him. Obama is sticking to the principles he preached while campaigning to be president, that should be applauded. Often, political leaders have no principles, and if they do their principles are appalling. On a final note, to those who demonize Chavez I suggest you disregard our American media's slanted view of him and do some of your own research.

    April 19, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  24. B. Szakacs

    Mr. Obama is correct and the sanator is wrong.

    April 19, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
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