PANAMA CITY._ The atmosphere that will prevail at the seventh Summit of the Americas remains undefined as it could either be the ideal venue for the unification of the continent, as the Panamanian hosts and others hope, or the stage for a new confrontation with the United States.

There is no doubt, however, that it will be a historic moment, in which family photographs, dinners, and amicable bilateral talks will be the agenda of the day.

International media will focus on three presidents in particular: Cuba and Venezuela on one side, and the U.S. on the other.

Last December 17’s announcement on the thawing of Cuba-U.S. relations came as a much needed relief to the region that for the very first time witnessed, if not instant reconciliation, at least some courteous dialogue after over 50 years of antagonism.

The talks and decisions of both nations to open embassies in the near future fueled some optimism and hopes that the Panama Summit might provide a platform to resolve some of the thorniest issues; perhaps allowing for an encounter between Cuban president Raúl Castro and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama.

However, Obama’s presidential decree designating Venezuela as a threat to U.S. national security, is considered a “diplomatic blunder” by many experts in the context of the optimistic atmosphere and the present progress.

In light of this infamy, Latin America and the Caribbean closed ranks in support of Venezuela.

In what may have been an error of judgement, the regional political right might have thought that Cuba, intoxicated by the rapprochement with its traditional political adversary, might distance itself from its natural ally.

A big mistake indeed. The stoic position of the island, formerly stated in declarations, was reiterated once again by president Raúl Castro himself at a recent summit of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA for its Spanish acronym) in Caracas, where he stated that “U.S. imperialism has unsuccessfully plotted every sort of subversion and destabilization against the Chavista and Bolivarian revolution in an attempt to reestablish its control of the world’s largest oil reserves and strike a blow against the process of integration and emancipation unfolding in our America.”

He also confirmed, once more, a historic position: “the U.S. must understand for once and for all that Cuba can neither be bought nor seduced, and that Venezuela cannot be intimidated - our bonds are unbreakable.”

At that same summit, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño warned that Washington’s threats might be the prelude to an invasion; something that cannot be allowed in this country, he said.

Other voices are advocating positions ranging from condemnation to calls for the arraignment of a U.S. government that must once again swallow the bitter pill of isolation.

PROSPECTIVE CONFRONTATIONS

The parallel continental forums sponsored by the Panamanian Foreign Office and the Organization of American States (OAS) loom as potential points of conflict between civil society, youth, university rectors, and business people.

Some national preparatory summit seminars have warned of somewhat “sensitive” subjects that might be motive for conflict. The much vilified term “democracy” will be hoisted on the banners of both, the participatory and representative bands, with opposing meanings and interpretations.

Even at the Panamanian civil society forum serious questions have been raised about the drafting of the meeting’s main text at the OAS headquarters in Washington.

The host nation will try to showcase, to over 12,000 visitors, a beautiful, prosperous, and safe Panama with smart neighborhoods, the Inter-oceanic Canal, and natural reserves as examples of neoliberal achievements.

They will endeavor to avoid exposing the profound inequalities and the extreme poverty endemic in indigenous regions where transnational companies pillage ancestral lands for mining and power generation activities that fail to give back to the communities in any way.

Other events such as the Peoples’ Summit and the Indigenous Peoples‘ Summit should exemplify the unity of the voiceless, and of those whose respective governments pay no heed to their cries.

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