Obama impresses regional leaders
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”.