Obama leaves for Latin American visit

April 9, 2015 12:31 pm 

WASHINGTON, April 9 — U.S. President Barack Obama left on Wednesday for a trip to the Caribbean and Central America, with a hemispheric summit in Panama dominating his agenda.

Obama is scheduled to have a meeting with leaders from the 15-member Caribbean Community in Jamaica, the White House said.

He will also join 33 other leaders for the seventh summit of the Americas slated for Friday and Saturday in Panama, with focus expected on his interactions with Cuban and Venezuelan leaders.

Obama had hoped for reopened embassies ahead of the summit after he moved to normalize relations with Cuba in December last year, but three rounds of talks over restoring diplomatic relations and reopening embassies had failed to make much headway due to Washington's failure to delist Havana as a sponsor of state terrorism.

Benjamin Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, said on Tuesday that a review by the State Department over the issue was nearing completion but he could not predict the timing of a decision by the president.

In contrast with the detente between Washington and Havana, U.S. relations with Venezuela have nosedived following a recent spate of tit-for-tat measures between them.

Rhodes on Tuesday tried to soothe ties with Caracas ahead of the Panama summit, saying Washington "doesn't believe that Venezuela poses some threat to national security."

Obama described Venezuela as a threat to U.S. national security and a country that constituted a national emergency for Washington in an executive order he signed last month, which imposed sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials allegedly involved in human rights abuses and corruption. (PNA/Xinhua)

FFC/MEC

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