Washington, D.C.—On April 10-11, the Government of Panama will host the 7th Summit of the Americas, bringing together leaders from across the hemisphere, including—for the first time in its history—Cuba. The issue of U.S.-Cuba relations will be front and center, especially in light of recent dialogues over opening up embassies, human rights issues, and the potential removal of Cuba from the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) is a leading research and advocacy organization that has been advancing human rights in the Americas for the past 40 years, and will have key experts at the summit available for commentary and analysis.
Executive Director Joy Olson, a leading expert on U.S. policy towards the region, will be attending the summit, and will be joined by Program Director Geoff Thale, WOLA’s expert on Cuba. Thale has followed Cuban issues since the mid-1990s and traveled to the country more than thirty times. He is deeply familiar with the economic and political reforms underway in Cuba, as well as U.S.-Cuban relations.
Compared to previous years, this year’s summit also presents new opportunities for the future of U.S.-Latin American relations. In addition to normalizing relations with Cuba, President Obama’s executive action on immigration and the billion-dollar aid request for Central America have been very well-received in the region.
WOLA will also be closely monitoring the summit to see what the gathering of regional leaders will hold for other major issues in the hemisphere, including:
- Venezuela’s polarized political landscape and economic climate, as recently outlined by WOLA Senior Fellow David Smilde for WOLA’s Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights blog.
- The future of the billion-dollar U.S. aid proposal for Central America, and the related “Alliance for Prosperity” which will be discussed during a planned parallel meeting in Panama. Addressing the problems of insecurity, poor governance, and lack of economic opportunities in Central America will require greater investments, but it will also require finding partners that are strongly committed to tackling the deep-seated corruption that has impeded progress in the region.
- The current state of the drug policy reform debate in the Americas, especially following the historic cannabis initiatives in Uruguay and several U.S. states. These initiatives passed after the 2012 summit in Cartagena highlighted widespread support for a new approach to drug policy in the hemisphere.