The summit in Panama will go down in history as the first formal encounter between the U.S. and Cuba and as the continuation of the thawing process the two governments started almost two years ago with the Vatican and Canada as mediators.
While Obama looked to the future, Castro began the discussion referring to 1898 and spent 48 minutes abusing the patience of those present with useless repetition and ignoring the event's tight schedule, and reading a lecture full of claims both true and false, like announcing that the regime received the support of more than 97 percent of the Cuban electorate.
We're used to hearing similar statistics of "support" from Stalin, Brezhnev and Ceaucescu. Castro took advantage of the opportunity to blame Cuba's socioeconomic disaster on the "blockade." The blockade is what Kennedy imposed around the island in October 1962 using the U.S. Navy to keep Soviet rockets with nuclear capacity from getting to Cuba.
What the U.S. has maintained against Cuba is a partial commercial embargo, partial because medicine and food have been excluded from the embargo for years. Obama is right in wanting to lift the embargo, because it has turned into an excuse for hiding the failure of the communist socioeconomic model, which is clear to all except the ignorant and ideologically blinded, when compared to the cases of the two Germanys and two Koreas.
Korea was more intelligent in voicing its grievances against the United States. In claiming the U.S. is not part of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Castro forgot to mention that the Venezuelan regime rejected participation in order to avoid being judged by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Cristina Fernandez called the Obama administration ridiculous for labeling Venezuela a threat to the U.S. as part of its formula of legally allowing the president to impose sanctions against people and countries.
In the case of Venezuela, the U.S. sanctions are against seven officials for human rights violations. In the case of Iran, U.S. sanctions are against the state and prohibit the purchase of oil, exportation of technological products and use of the North American financial system.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro also abused the agenda with a discourse lasting 38 minutes, but he beat out Castro by starting the discourse with reference to 1815. A regrettable speech full of false statistics favorable to the regime set an inappropriate tone for a diplomatic meeting.
It was obviously aimed at the "gallery" in Venezuela, as he tried to regain some popular opinion points with anti-Yankee rhetoric, but it ended ridiculously, with him calling the American embassy in Caracas a "war machine," claiming that the U.S. was part of an assassination conspiracy, and that the U.S. was behind the "toucan strike," in which a supposed drone aircraft from a mysterious neighboring country was on a mission to assassinate Maduro and attack the Venezuelan state.
The speeches by Castro, Maduro, Fernandez, Morales and Correa remind me of the great Octavio Paz when he said, "The Latin American is a being that has lived in the suburbs of the Occident, on the outskirts of history" and that "Latin America is 30 years behind socioeconomic and political reflection."