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Can Colombia's Santos unify the Americas?

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Santos has not only pushed Colombia closer to the center, analysts say. He has also sought to unify countries on opposite ideological spectrums, mending the tense bilateral relationship with Venezuela, while most recently defusing a standoff between the US and leftist leaders who were promising to boycott the OAS summit if Cuba, which does not belong to the group, was not at the table.

"There are sharp divisions [in Latin America], and the region … is moving in different directions," says Michael Shifter, president of Inter-American Dialogue. "If you are going to deal with the main regional problem, which is citizen security, you have to work together…. There is a real need," Mr. Shifter says.

Deft resolution to Cuba controversy

The brouhaha over Cuba's participation in the regional summit is, in many ways, a microcosm of the divides that have grown in the Americas in the past decade.

Cuba has not been part of the OAS since 1962. But Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa rallied the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas, a bloc of left-leaning nations, to protest Cuba's exclusion by possibly not showing up to the 34-nation meeting. Cuba's presence could have, in turn, led to a US boycott.

Santos flew to Havana and brokered a resolution: Cuba is not invited to the summit, yet the country's future inclusion will be on the agenda.

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