Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ortega says Obama's Latam policy stuck in past

Ortega says Obama's Latam policy stuck in past
By Pascal Fletcher
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (Reuters) - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega accused U.S. President Barack Obama's administration on Friday of being "stuck in the past" in its policies toward his country and Cuba.
Leftist Ortega, elected in 2006 after leading a government in the 1980s opposed by the United States, criticized Obama at a Caribbean summit of the Venezuelan-backed energy alliance PetroCaribe.
Nicaragua and its ally Cuba belong to the 18-nation organization that groups OPEC member Venezuela with oil-importing Caribbean and Central America states, allowing them to buy Venezuelan oil on easier terms.
Whereas most PetroCaribe leaders present used the one-day meeting in St. Kitts to praise Venezuela's oil support for the development of their countries, Ortega made a point of attacking U.S. strategy in Latin America.
He said Obama, despite displaying good intentions, appeared to be repeating hostile policies established by predecessors like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan toward regional governments that Washington disagreed with, such as his own and the communist leadership in Cuba.
"We've all recognized in President Obama a man of good intentions, but he's caught in a system, which by its own nature is expansionist, interventionist," the former Marxist guerrilla said.
Ortega criticized the United States for canceling more than $60 million in assistance to Nicaragua this week.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. taxpayer-funded operation set up by former President Bush to fight poverty in developing nations, said it took the decision because of problems in local elections last year in Nicaragua.
"President Obama is repeating Reagan's policy by cutting aid to Nicaragua," Ortega said.
He also criticized the Obama administration for maintaining a 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, although the new U.S. president has eased some aspects of the sanctions.
"They are stuck in the past," the Nicaraguan leader said.
Obama has offered a "new beginning" in relations with Cuba, but has called on its leaders to reciprocate by freeing detained dissidents and opening up political freedoms.
He has made clear he intends to keep the embargo in place until Havana shows clear signs of making reforms.
Obama made a good impression among Latin American leaders at a Summit of the Americas in Trinidad in April, shaking hands with Ortega and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, both virulent critics of U.S. policy in the region. Continued...
Source: Reuters

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