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Chummy Obama, Chávez mark 'spirit of cooperation' at summit

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Officially, the summit focused on three issues: the regional economic crisis, common security threats, and energy development and global warming.

On the economy, the leaders agreed to urge the Inter-American Development Bank, the region’s international financing institutution, to commit additional lending capital to help struggling countries confront the economic downturn.

One reason some leaders balked at signing the summit’s declaration is that the document was negotiated last fall, before the full impact of the global economic crisis was evident. Publicly, however, some leaders, led by Mr. Chávez, held to their threat to snub any final document unless it included a condemnation of the US embargo of Cuba.

Cuba was a focus of the leaders’ discussions to a degree it never was at earlier summits. But it did not derail deliberations in a way some had predicted. As a Communist country without a democratically elected leadership, Cuba is the only nation of the Americas not invited to the summits.

The leaders agreed the Organization of American States should take up the question of Cuba’s return to the regional body at its June meeting in Honduras. But the lack of fireworks over the Cuban issue reflected recognition of the promise of a new direction in US-Cuba relations under Obama. The summit followed new measures announced by the Obama administration last week loosening some restrictions on US contacts with Cuba.

In response, Havana let be known it was ready for dialogue on all issues between the two estranged countries. But disagreements remain over who should act next, suggesting progress will be slow.

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