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Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 13:39 UK

Americas summit: Readers' views

Locals stand next to a banner for the Americas summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
The gathering will include 34 Latin American and Caribbean countries

US President Barack Obama is preparing to meet leaders from neighbouring countries across the Americas for the first time, after a two-day visit to Mexico.

Ahead of the Summit of the Americas, hosted by Trinidad and Tobago, Mr Obama pushed Cuba up the agenda by making a number of conciliatory moves towards the communist country.

Here, readers from across the region discuss what they would like to see emerge from the summit.

NORBERTO GARCIA, 69, LIMA, PERU

Norberto Garcia

I hope the focus will not just be on Cuba, as this is a summit of the Americas, not a summit on Cuba.

Besides, President Obama has already taken two important steps in easing the restrictions on travel between the US and Cuba and the transferring of money between the two countries

The next step beyond that would be to discuss the embargo, but Obama does not need that issue right now as he has enough problems to tackle on the domestic front as it is.

He doesn't need to open another front that would further risk public opinion turning against him.

In any case, the rest of Latin America already has relations with Cuba, so that is not really an issue for us.

Instead, the leaders in Trinidad should focus on a new relationship between their countries.

The drugs war in Mexico is of course very important, but it should not, along with Cuba, occupy the majority of these leaders' time this weekend

Their focus should mainly be on trade and enlarging the agreements that are already in place.

Latin American countries need to establish wider and closer trade agreements both with each other and with the US.

If we are to overcome this recession, we must provide wider access to markets.

Education and training need to be improved to increase productivity and promote growth.

This continent is thirsty for innovation and the lack of training and education available for workers is at the root cause of the continent's problems.

The drugs war in Mexico is of course very important also, but it should not, along with Cuba, occupy the majority of these leaders' time this weekend.

What we need from them is a fresh approach to trade overall.

LEONARDO FARROCO, 21, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Leonardo Farroco

The main focus of this summit will be on the financial crisis affecting the US and Latin America.

However, since the impact of the crisis on Brazil is not as bad as other countries in the region, this should put us in a position of strength.

Because of our size Brazil has managed to avoid being hit hard by encouraging more trade between states within our borders.

Although President Lula referred to the recession as a "weak wind from the sea", it is getting stronger, but we are still not as badly off as some countries.

However, we need to take advantage of our strong economic position in the continent and build better trade links and establish better routes for exports that will help our economy.

With jobs [in the US] becoming more scarce there is more of an opportunity for tension from people worried their jobs will be taken by immigrants

Brazil is not as influential on the entire Americas region as the US, Canada or Mexico, but we have an opportunity now to change that.

As for President Obama, we have a saying here for him already that "he might be a nice guy, but he's still American".

By that we mean that he will protect American jobs and industry, no matter what.

But I do believe he will encourage more open relations between the US and Latin America.

There are still many illegal Latin Americans in the US and with jobs there becoming more scarce there is more of an opportunity for tension from people worried their jobs will be taken by immigrants. That is something Obama will need to address.

Something else he needs to handle carefully is the issue of Cuba and how his approach to the communist regime there will be viewed by his own voters.

For that reason I think he will look to encourage Cuba to play a bigger role in the region - but not in the short-term. His voters are watching.

RIC SLOCUM, 47, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, USA

Ric Slocum

I think President Obama will want to establish the same tone this weekend as he did at the G20 in London.

We have to present ourselves in a different light now and try to find our common ground with other countries, not our differences.

Relations with our neighbours have deteriorated over the last number of years and we need to mend fences, starting right now.

Establishing good relations with the Brazilians will be a good start as they are emerging as one of the strongest countries in the region.

With their natural resources and exports it looks like they are the ones who will be able to weather the storm of the recession.

They also have influence in the region and can act as a mediator between the US and Venezuela and Cuba.

You don't just grow a country, you grow a region

Of course it's fair to also say that the US should do its own mediating, but it's important generally that we reach out to our neighbours.

We need to establish stronger economic ties in the region, so people can see that the US is imposing its will regarding trade.

Although the economic climate makes it difficult at the moment, if we can establish more free trade then we can all benefit.

You don't just grow a country, you grow a region. More open trade will help to pump money back into our countries, not least the US.

Watching the likes of Mexico benefit can lead to its own reward as our immediate neighbour to the south could prosper. That could address the need that many feel to cross over into the US illegally.

At the same time we do need to strengthen border security, however.

The Cuban embargo should also be lifted in my opinion, as we are not benefiting from this any more, but because it is a dangerous issue for Obama politically, this one may not be addressed so soon.

MAKESI BAPTISTE, 26, ARIMA, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

Makesi Baptiste

There are lots of complaints from locals here about money being spent on improvements to infrastructure especially for this summit that people have been asking for for years.

But at least we are benefitting from hosting the event.

Security is not as heavy as I expected but there are a lot of police around and the drive to work is much longer now with all the road-blocks.

Tinted windows in cars are very popular here and the police have used this as an opportunity to catch anyone who has illegally tinted [tinted too darkly] their cars.

As for the summit itself, as hosts this provides Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean an opportunity to have a bigger voice in the region.

Our problem is that we don't have enough of a voice in comparison with much bigger nations like the US, Brazil and Canada, and we tend to lay back and let them do the talking.

A coastguard vessel patrols the coast of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Security is high in the coastal areas around Port of Spain for the summit

But now we have a good chance to play a more important role, especially since the recession has not yet really hit here.

We need to help boost the bigger nations and provide them with a cane to get back on their feet.

We can do this by strengthening our trade agreements and levels of exports to these countries - we already provide fruits, spices and gas, for example, to the likes of the US.

Once they get back to a position of strength again, we will be rewarded for our support.

This will show a lot of maturity on the part of the Caribbean nations.

As for Cuba, the smaller Caribbean countries are saying nothing about it. We treat it like the outside child.

But I do think Cuba should be here at the summit, as it has a lot to offer in terms of training and education.

I think Obama will look into the possibility of dialogue with Cuba, but that's down the road, not now.



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