After three days of activity, the fifth Summit of the Americas, held in Port-of-Spain (the capital of Trinidad and Tobago), ended yesterday with signs of rapprochement and détente between the United States and some of the Latin American governments more critical of Washington, as well as with prospects for a new era in the history of continental relations.

In the first place, it is important to note that the meeting recently held in the Caribbean nation introduced new items to the U.S. political agenda regarding Latin American, offering a new projection of the country’s observable hemispheric and world strength. It allowed for discourse, accented by multilateralism and respect for all countries of the Americas, which, in itself, is encouraging and positive. It was a departure from the traditional, imperial arrogance of the White House and the arbitrary spirit of the George W. Bush administration, attitudes that led to profound deterioration in diplomatic relations between Washington and a sizable number of Latin American countries.

Certainly, the spirit of rapprochement that prevailed in the meeting of American leaders could not lead to unanimity, with respect to the final declaration of the meeting. As indicated by the host, Prime Minister Patrick Manning, charged with representing state participants by signing the text: “The resulting document is a compromise reached with the approval of some, but not of others. We recognize, in accepting it, that acceptance was not unanimous.”

This is, however, far from being a sign of rupture or of confrontation between the countries convened at the Summit, placing in clear relief a general intent to allow dialogue and consensus – even though it side-stepped discord – including clarification of the initial position of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the governments making up the Bolivian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), who had said they would veto the final declaration.

Undoubtedly, a key element for progress in Port-of-Spain has been the new attitude displayed by some of the major players, in particular, the governments of the U.S. and Venezuela. The spirit of conciliation with which Barack Obama, as well as Hugo Chavez, attended this event was expressed in the announcement by the latter that he would send a new Venezuelan ambassador to Washington, a position that has been vacant for over six months. Moreover, the willingness for rapprochement demonstrated by U.S. and Venezuelan leaders helped them to balance the weight of invisible, political-ideological differences between the White House and the Palace of Miraflores, and to conclude that they are not insurmountable burdens for dialogue and understanding between both countries, as has seemed to be the case for several months.

Of course, what happened this weekend in the Trinidad and Tobago capital is only a starting point for the work to be done. So far, there is no certainty that the handshakes and speeches of the last three days will effectively lead to the construction of agreements over principle issues, like the course of action that must be taken at a regional level to address the current economic crisis or the end of the unjust exclusion of Cuba from the so-called inter-American system.

The treatment of these subjects would require, without a doubt, additional effort from all leaders of the continent and, where appropriate, greater pressure on Washington from Latin American countries to rectify unjust measures, like that still suffered by the Cuban people.

Finally, the meeting that ended yesterday was, for the most part, successful and hopeful, but it will be necessary to make greater progress for the sake of building a more just and equitable America that gives voice to all countries, one that respects the principles of sovereignty and self-determination of all people.