With at least two leaders on the ground in Colombia and more on their way, the western hemisphere is getting set for the Summit of the Americas, taking place 14th and 15th April.
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller stepped into Colombia earlier this week, and Chilean President Sebastián Piñera was the second to touch down, arriving Tuesday night. Piñera also joined Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on a family trip with their wives to a national park today, according to the Colombian outlet El País.
Mexican president Felipe Calderón is among a slew of others expected to touch down today, while Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is making his way south from the cold, snowy weather.
This is the sixth summit, and it is taking place in Cartagena, Colombia. While each country is bringing its issues with it, there are a few big topics that are sure to makes waves.
Many Latin American countries are now putting potential drug decriminalisation or legalisation on the table as an option to taming the violence surrounding it.
Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina has been pushing the issue, mentioning the pros of legalisation at a recent Central American summit and saying the strategy that has been used to fight drug trafficking has “failed.”
Mexico’s Calderon has also called for national debate on the issue.
On 29th March, a bill was presented to Argentine Congress to decriminalise the possession of drugs for personal consumption.
However, in March Salvadorian President Mauricio Funes and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega refused to give their support to the cause of drug decriminalisation.
Canadian media are reporting that Prime Minister Harper is set to push trade to the table with a trans-Pacific free trade zone, according to the country’s Trade Minister Ed Fast who was in Peru today.
The agreement, if all goes according to plan, would set up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement including nine countries whose borders edge on the Pacific Ocean.
Other trade issues are sure to arise. On 26th March, US President Barrack Obama announced that his administration would temporarily suspend trade benefits with Argentina. The president said the move was in reaction to the South American country not acting “in good faith” with regards to fee agreements.
On 8th March, the Colombian president confirmed that Cuba could not attend the Summit of the Americas.
“Unfortunately, the decision to invite Cuba requires a consensus, and we haven’t been able to obtain one,” Santos told reporters at the time.
On 4th April, Equador’s President Rafael Correa wrote a letter to the Colombian president stating that he would not attend the summit in protest, adding that the meeting cannot be called the Summit of the Americas while “an American country is intentionally and unjustifiably neglected.”
The United States said they would like to see widespread participation, noting that the summit “offers an opportunity for regional leaders to discuss issues that affect all citizens,” according to a US State Department spokesperson.