Apr 10, 2015 11:51 PM

Latest on Americas Summit: Obama misses out on group photo

The Associated Press

10:50 p.m. (0350 GMT, 11:50 p.m. EDT)

Leaders at the Summit of the Americas gathered for a group photo after wrapping up public activities for the day. Well, most of them anyway.

The summit's Panamanian hosts invited all heads of state to ride together on a bus to their private dinner Friday night.

A number of leaders agreed. But not Barack Obama, who travels with high security including an armored limousine nicknamed "the beast."

Those on the bus made it in time for the photo. Obama, Cuba's Raul Castro and several others who stuck with their own motorcades missed out.


9:10 p.m. (0210 GMT, 10:10 p.m. EDT)

U.N. Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is praising presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro for moving to restore U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations after decades of hostility.

Ban says at the Summit of the Americas that the region is "overcoming longstanding divisions in historic ways, as we see in this very room."

He notes that it's the first time all 35 nations of the Americas have attended the summit. Cuba was excluded for years, and Ban says President Raul Castro's presence Friday evening fulfills a wish felt across the region.

Ban says that it's a move in line with the United Nations Charter and its "goal of promoting good neighborliness."


8:55 p.m. (0155 GMT, 9:55 p.m. EDT)

Pope Francis' star power is being felt at the Summit of Americas.

In a message read by Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the first pope from Latin America has urged leaders to seek common ground to solve problems afflicting the heavily Roman Catholic region.

The Argentine-born pontiff said that even as Latin American nations have progressed economically in recent years, large numbers of people continue to live in poverty and reducing inequality will only come about with concerted government action.

Parolin read the message at the summit's opening ceremony Friday evening. In it the pope said he wanted to encourage "mutual cooperation and maximum effort required to overcome differences on the road to the common good."

Host Panama invited the Vatican to participate in the summit for the first time in the meeting's 21-year history.

The pope and Parolin played a role in brokering secret talks between Cuba and the United States that led President Barack Obama in December to announce that he was opening negotiations on restoring ties with the communist island.


8:35 p.m. (0135 GMT, 9:35 p.m. EDT)

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro have exchanged greetings and handshakes at the opening of the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

It's the first such interaction between the two men in three years, and one of the only times that the leaders of the U.S. and Cuba have spoken to one another in more than a half century.

The moment was captured on a video taken by a reporter for the Venezuelan television network Telesur. Obama and Castro can be seen greeting each other in a big crowd while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez look on. Obama and Castro shake hands multiple times while nodding and chatting comfortably.

The encounter was highly anticipated at the summit the first to include Cuba. Castro and Obama announced in December their intentions to restore diplomatic relations between their two countries after more than 50 years of estrangement.

The White House says the interaction was informal and there was no substantive conversation between the men. Obama and Castro are expected to speak further on Saturday.

Obama and Castro last shook hands in 2013 at Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa. They spoke by phone in December before announcing the deal to restore relations, and again on Wednesday before Obama left Washington on his trip to Jamaica and Panama.


8:20 p.m. (0120 GMT, 9:20 p.m. EDT)

President Barack Obama is wedged between the leaders of El Salvador and Grenada at the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas.

Two seats down from Obama is Cuban President Raul Castro, the focus of attention as the communist-governed island participates in the regional gathering for the first time.

Obama in December announced he was restoring ties to Cuba partly in a bid to begin a new era of even-handed relations with Latin America. But leftist leaders are skeptical and point to recent sanctions against officials from socialist-run Venezuela for alleged human rights abuses as a sign that Washington is still relying on strong-armed tactics left over from the Cold War.


7:50 p.m. (0050 GMT, 8:50 p.m. EDT)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was greeted with a din of banging pots as he arrived for the start of the Summit of the Americas.

The Panama City neighborhood surrounding the Atlapa Convention Center where the summit kicked off Friday night is popular with wealthy Venezuelans who have immigrated to Panama during the past 15 years of socialist rule.

Banging pots is a popular form of protest in Latin America. Residents in adjacent high-rises also toggled their apartment lights on and off as Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores were shown on television walking onto the red carpet to the waiting host, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela.

Earlier in the day Maduro was cheered by hundreds of residents in a poor neighborhood that suffered heavy losses during the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama.


7:45 p.m. (0050 GMT, 8:50 p.m. EDT)

President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro have arrived at the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

The two strode the red carpet at the summit's venue in the Panamanian capital within a few minutes of each other Friday evening.

Both smiled as they conversed with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and first lady Lorena Castillo, who greeted a long string of Latin American and Caribbean leaders.

Obama was the last to arrive.


5:35 p.m. (2235 GMT, 6:35 p.m. EDT)

Halfway through his first full day in Panama for the Summit of the Americas, President Barack Obama appears to be losing steam. His eyes glazed over while sitting onstage listening to other heads of state during a CEO summit, and on a few occasions he seemed to rest his chin on his fingertips in an attempt to stay awake.

Obama has had a grueling schedule for the first day of the summit. He awoke early for an unannounced tour of the Panama Canal, then held separate meetings with Panama's president and a group of Central American leaders before the CEO event. A speech and round-table with civil society leaders, a summit welcome ceremony and a leaders' dinner were all on his schedule before his day wrapped up.


5:35 p.m. (2235 GMT, 6:35 p.m. EDT)

President Barack Obama has given a special shout out to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg at gathering of CEOs for the Summit of Americas.

Obama said he was glad his "friend" Zuckerberg was there and called what he has done at Facebook "transformative."

As part of his visit to Panama for the Summit of the Americas, Zuckerberg announced an initiative to bring limited free Internet service across the Central American country to provide information on health, jobs, education and communication.

Zuckerberg also posted pictures on Facebook of his visit to the Panama Canal. He says the canal connected the world through commerce a century ago and is inspiration to those who are trying to connect the world through the Internet.


4:25 p.m. (2125 GMT, 5:25 p.m. EDT)

He didn't put 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue under the address column, but President Barack Obama did leave a message in the Panama Canal's guest book.

The president wrote: "The Panama Canal is a testament to human ingenuity and vision. The world thanks Panama for its stewardship of this vital link to our shared prosperity."

A picture of the president's message and signature was posted on the canal's Twitter feed a few hours after he visited Friday.


4:25 p.m. (2125 GMT, 5:25 p.m. EDT)

Panamanian organizers of the Summit of the Americas are apologizing for hoisting the wrong flag during the ceremonial arrival Friday of President Michel Martelly of Haiti.

Martelly, one of the last leaders to arrive to the regional gathering, was taken aback to find the flag of Canada flying near where his presidential plane landed. Protocol staff also struggled to get the president's microphone working.

The leader of the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation took the flag foul-up in stride and at the urging of Panama's interior minister walked over to journalists gathered on the tarmac to thank Panama for the invitation.


3:45 p.m. (2045 GMT, 4:45 p.m. EDT)

President Barack Obama is urging Latin America to make sure its economic growth benefits the middle and lower classes not only those at the very top.

Obama took part in a CEO summit being held alongside the Summit of the Americas in Panama. The presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Panama joined him, along with business leaders such as U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue.

Obama told the gathering that economies fare better when they expand their middle class and provide ways to get into the middle class rather than focus on the wealthy.

He says, "There's only so much food you can eat; there's only so many cars you can buy."

The focus on bottom-up economics for Latin America is an extension of Obama's approach at home. The president has sought to raise U.S. wages, expand workers' access to childcare and make educational opportunities universal.

Obama also told the forum that economic growth follows good governance. He says countries have a tough time creating economic security when they are not also making sure their citizens perceive their legal and political systems as legitimate.


3 p.m. (2000 GMT, 4 p.m. EDT)

The presidents of three Central American countries are asking the United Nations to support their plan to curtail illegal migration to the United States by promoting economic development.

The leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras delivered their proposal to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Friday ahead of the Summit of the Americas in Panama. It calls on the United States and the Inter-American Development Bank to support projects to strengthen security of the countries and stimulate economic growth.

During the two-day summit, the three presidents will meet with U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., who heads the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.


3 p.m. (2000 GMT, 4 p.m. EDT)

At the Summit of the Americas, leaders from around the region are meeting on the sidelines with their counterparts, with CEOs of major corporations and with members of civil society.

Bolivian President Evo Morales also made time for a friendly soccer match Friday with delegates to the alternative Peoples' Summit.

Morales, a big soccer fan who is fond of kicking the ball around with different groups as part of his presidential outreach, donned a white-and-green No. 10 jersey with "Evo" on the back.


1:30 p.m. (1830 GMT, 2:30 EDT)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has barely gotten off his plane in Panama City before giving a symbolic poke in the eye to Washington.

Shortly after arriving Friday, the outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy visited a monument honoring victims of the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama. A crowd of several hundred chanted in Spanish, "Maduro, stick it to the Yankee!"

The memorial is in the poor downtown neighborhood of El Chorrillo, which saw the heaviest fighting during the invasion.

Trinidad Ayola lost her husband in the fighting. Holding back tears, she says it's the first time any head of state has visited in the two decades since the monument was built. She wants Obama to apologize for the invasion.

She says "Maduro is interested in the suffering of the people," while "all Obama cares about is the interests of the multinationals."

Tensions between Washington and Caracas have risen in recent weeks due to financial and travel sanctions the U.S. has imposed against seven Venezuelan officials over alleged human rights abuses.


1:00 p.m. (1800 GMT, 2 p.m. EDT)

Cuba says Thursday night's discussions between Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry lasted nearly three hours and took place in "a respectful and constructive atmosphere."

The statement from the island's Foreign Ministry does not reveal details of the talks in Panama City, but says the two men agreed to keep the conversation going.

It is the highest-level face-to-face contact between officials from the two countries since the Dec. 17 announcement that Washington and Havana would move to restore diplomatic relations that were severed in 1961.

Senior U.S. State Department and Cuban Foreign Ministry officials have met several times since January. President Barack Obama and Cuba's Raul Castro are expected to cross paths later during the Summit of the Americas, which runs through Saturday in Panama City


12:15 p.m. (1715 GMT, 1:45 p.m. EDT)

The White House says President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro will see each other on Saturday.

A formal meeting set for a specific time is not planned, says Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser. But Rhodes says officials anticipate the two leaders will have an opportunity to "see each other" and have a discussion Saturday, the final day of the Summit of the Americas.

Obama and Castro spoke by telephone on Wednesday before Obama left Washington.

They also spoke by phone in December, when both leaders announced their intent to restore diplomatic relations between their countries.


12:15 p.m. (1715 GMT, 1:45 p.m. EDT)

Amid their diplomatic dealings President Barack Obama and Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela are overseeing some commercial business.

The two presidents stood by as the CEOs of Boeing and Copa Airlines signed a deal for the Panamanian airline to purchase 61 of the U.S. airplane giant's 737 aircraft. The companies say it's the largest commercial deal between a U.S. and Panamanian company in history.

Obama says it means 12,000 jobs in the United States. White House spokesman Josh Earnest followed up with a bigger number 40,000 U.S. jobs that he said will be not just at Boeing, but engine-maker General Electric and other businesses involved in the supply chain.

The sale is a significant one for Chicago-based Boeing but by no means its largest. The biggest single 737-MAX order has come from Indonesia's Lion Air, which is seeking 201 planes although many analysts suspect the airline won't ultimately take delivery of them all.

The new 737-MAX jets have a list price of $106.9 million to $113.3 million, although airlines often negotiate steep discounts.


11:45 a.m. (1645 GMT, 12:45 p.m. EDT)

President Barack Obama says he has congratulated Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela on hosting what will be a successful Summit of the Americas.

Obama says Panama is a "proud democracy" and a symbol of the progress the Western Hemisphere has made in the past few decades.

His comments came after meeting with Varela before the summit opens Friday evening.


10:45 a.m. (1545 GMT, 11:45 a.m. EDT)

President Barack Obama has toured the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal.

Obama made no comments as he looked over the polluted, greenish waterway that is a passage for ships crossing the Americas. There were no vessels in the canal as Obama made his visit, but Secret Service gunboats were positioned nearby.

Obama, who wore sunglasses and slung his suit jacket over his shoulder on a partly cloudy and humid morning, walked along a narrow pedestrian path that spans the canal from the control tower and toward a limousine waiting to whisk him to his next destination, a meeting with Panama's president, Juan Carlos Varela.

The canal is in the midst of a multibillion-dollar enlargement project.


10:30 a.m. (1530 GMT, 11:30 a.m. EDT)

A social activists' forum running parallel to the Summit of the Americas has concluded after three days marred by confrontations.

Commissions from the forum will deliver recommendations on issues including health, education, migration and civic participation to heads of state who are gathering in the Panamanian capital.

The activists' meeting has seen shouting, shoving and sloganeering by backers and opponents of Cuba's communist-run government.

Supporters objected to the presence of Cuban dissidents, who are not recognized as members of civil society back home but rather denigrated as "mercenaries."

Opposition leaders say the heckling shows that the pro-Castro camp is not interested in dialogue.

Members of the Venezuelan delegation have sided with the Cuban government supporters, and had their own run-ins with opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The White House has expressed concern over the incidents.


9:45 a.m. (1445 GMT, 10:45 a.m. EDT)

As the Summit of the Americas opens for business, Panama City feels like a ghost town.

Most businesses, schools and government agencies are shuttered for the day.

Normally clogged streets and thoroughfares are practically empty during what otherwise would be a chaotic Friday morning rush hour.

Armed police are stationed at every corner for blocks around the convention center where heads of state meet later in the day.


8:15 a.m. (1315 GMT, 9:15 a.m. EDT)

President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro have spoken by phone ahead of an expected encounter at a regional summit in Panama.

The White House says the extraordinary call came on Wednesday, shortly before Obama departed Washington on his trip to Latin America and the Caribbean. Both Obama and Castro are in Panama City for the Summit of the Americas.

It's only the second known conversation between the leaders of the U.S. and Cuba in more than 50 years.

The first was in December, shortly before Obama and Castro announced plans to restore diplomatic ties. That process is currently underway.

The two leaders aren't scheduled to meet formally while in Panama but are expected to interact on the sidelines of the summit.


8:00 a.m. (1300 GMT, 9:00 a.m. EDT)

The Summit of the Americas in Panama recalls a Congress that South American leader Simon Bolivar convoked in the country in 1826, bringing together for the first time the United States and 10 newly independent Latin American countries. The U.S. was invited to that earlier gathering only at the last minute, owing to Bolivar's distrust of the emerging power and its expansionist ambitions in the region.

Some of today's issues echo those of 189 years ago. Cuba will be a focus of attention as it attends the Summit of the Americas for the first time. It also was a key point of discussion at the earlier meeting, with delegates looking to help the island and Puerto Rico achieve their independence from Spain.

One of the first agreements was to try to oblige former colonial overlord Spain to recognize the damage it had caused to the Americas. Modern leftist critics want the United States to do the same.

Marie Arana is the author of a 2013 biography of Bolivar. She says, "The tensions between the U.S. and Latin America have not really changed since the days of Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams."

One key difference, though: The current summit last two days. That early meeting lasted three weeks.


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