U.S., Cuban Leaders Meet, A First Since 1959

Cuban President Raúl Castro meets with U.S. President Barack Obama during the seventh Summit of the Americas. (Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, public domain)
Cuban President Raúl Castro meets with U.S. President Barack Obama during the seventh Summit of the Americas. (Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, public domain)

Top Story — U.S. President Barack Obama met with Cuban leader Raúl Castro on Saturday, the first time the two countries’ heads of state have been face-to-face since Cuba’s 1959 revolution. The meeting set the tone for the seventh Summit of the Americas, where regional leaders were notably muted in their usual criticism of the United States, a moderation that commenters say has resulted from the easing of tension between the two countries.

Cuba’s foreign minister said the conversation between Castro and Obama lasted some 80 minutes, and covered areas of friction between their countries, including human rights and press freedom. The two governments have not set a timeline for the official restoration of diplomatic ties, The Associated Press reported. Obama and Castro previously shook hands on Friday after a phone call two days before.

The run-up to the summit, held in Panama, was fraught with tension. Pro-government Cubans disrupted at least two meetings of regional activists, protesting that their perspective was being excluded from agenda-setting meetings.

While left-wing leaders like Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro expressed common criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, like its role in Chile’s 1973 coup, concerns that recent U.S. sanctions against Venezuela would cast a pall over the summit did not materialize. Maduro did not submit a petition of some 10 million signatures condemning the sanctions, as he had said he would do, according to The Associated Press.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexican journalist and champion of human rights Lydia Cacho — who was charged with libel after the publication of her book that revealed a sex-trafficking and pedophile ring with connections to the government — is in England to rally support for her cause of supporting Mexican journalists in their goal of exposing corruption.
  • Mexican authorities arrested César Gastélum Serrano, an alleged cocaine trafficker for the Sinaloa cartel that reportedly moved tons of drugs through Central America weekly, in Cancún Saturday.

Caribbean

  • Despite the historic handshake between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro, many Cubans on the island “have more pressing things on their mind,” according to a piece in The Guardian, where concerns of daily survival trump politics and international relations.
  • Three Puerto Rican police officers were charged with kidnapping and robbing a Dominican construction worker and were arrested, according to officials.
  • A Jamaican teenager suspected of wanting to join Islamic extremists was arrested in Suriname before boarding a flight with the goal of ultimately going to Syria to join Islamic State militants.

Central America

  • The United States wants to deploy 250 marines to Honduras during hurricane season, from June to November, in order to assist with humanitarian aid.
  • Prominent father-son lawyers and politicians were murdered in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, after four unidentified men attacked their home, according to officials.

Andes

  • Colombia’s attorney general made public an active investigation of 22 generals over their alleged role in a conspiracy to execute poor young men and pass their bodies off as belonging to FARC rebels. Thus far, eight hundred security force members have been jailed over their participation in the so-called “false positive” scandal, with more than 5,000 members still under suspicion, according to the attorney general.
  • Argentine former soccer legend Diego Maradona has been caught on video attempting to punch a man for trying to photograph him on Friday after a “Match for Peace” in Bogotá, Colombia, the video having since gone viral across social media in Latin America.

Southern Cone

  • Protesters across Brazil marched for the second time this year on Sunday against the administration of President Dilma Rousseff, although Sunday’s protests appear to have been significantly smaller than the nationwide demonstrations that took place on March 15.
  • Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez, speaking to reporters at the Summit of the Americas over the weekend, announced that the U.N. refugee agency will assist the six former Guantánamo Bay detainees now living in the South American country to find appropriate housing.
  • Amid mounting tensions over Pope Francis’ controversial decision to appoint a bishop in Chile who stands accused of protecting a notorious child molester, four members of the Catholic church’s sex abuse panel traveled to Rome on Sunday to relay their concerns.

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