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Obama impresses regional leaders


Obama impresses regional leaders

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United States President Barack Obama made quite  an impression during  a whirlwind tour  of the region last week.

In Jamaica, he was greeted by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller  and her CARICOM counterparts.

While there, Simpson-Miller asked Obama  to exonerate black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey, who was convicted in the US of mail fraud in the 1920s and remains a prominent historic figure on the island.

She said she told Obama it is the “deep desire of the government and people of Jamaica”  to have Garvey exonerated of the conviction that  got him deported back  to his Jamaican homeland in 1927.

“I asked the president to consider the matter and to offer any support within his authority during his tenure in the White House, and beyond,” she said after Obama left the island to attend the Summit of the Americas  in Panama.

Garvey was the first person named a Jamaican national hero following the island’s independence in 1962, and the government put his likeness on coins. He died in 1940.

Obama made no mention of Garvey during his public comments  in Jamaica, which  focused on a wide range  of regional issues including energy security, trade and climate change.

The President then went on to the Summit  of the Americas  in Panama where  he met President  Raul Castro of Cuba.

Obama challenged Latin American leaders yesterday to improve human rights and democracy even  as he works to end decades of hostility between the United States and communist-run Cuba.

The President has  won praise across much  of Latin America for seeking to restore diplomatic relations  with Cuba.

United Nations Secretary-general  Ban Ki-moon praised  both presidents for moving to restore US-Cuban diplomatic relations after decades of hostility.

Ban said at the Summit of the Americas that the region was “overcoming longstanding divisions  in historic ways,  as we see in this  very room”.