Although the weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Panama City was highlighted by a handshake between Cuba’s Raul Castro and the U.S. President Barack Obama, there were also emotional exchanges between several Latin American leaders and Obama.
One of the most intense came on Saturday when Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa told Obama that Latin America will no longer accept U.S. intervention in its affairs.
“Our people will never again accept the interference and intervention of the United States. Our memory is still torn by the abuse and violence of the past,” Correa said. “Panama is a good example of this with the December 1989 U.S. invasion, which caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people, so that the U.S. could arrest the bloody dictator that it installed into power,” he said.
Correa continued, personally addressing Obama: “Your government is still trying to intervene in our affairs as evidenced by your executive order that declared Venezuela a threat to your national security. It is also evidenced by officials from your office asking the U.S. Congress for money to defend freedom of expression in Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua,” he said. “We totally reject this act of arrogance,” he added.
Apparently caught off guard, Obama at first said he was not prepared to respond, but then said the U.S. had not always respected Latin American rights in past. “We admit this but we must move on and not be trapped in old ideology,” Obama said. “At least I’m not trapped in it.”
Obama suggested that the U.S. is a convenient scapegoat for problems not of its own making. “This kind of thinking will not bring progress. It will not educate our children or feed those who don’t have enough to eat,” he said.
Obama added that he was “open to the history lessons” he was receiving at the summit. “My country does not presume to be perfect but we can learn from your experience as well as our own and we can work together for a better future,” he said.