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US reaches out to Latin America – with help from Spain

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"There is a greater effort to talk about Latin America," says Spain's ambassador the US, Jorge Dezcallar de Mazarredo. "When I talk about other issues, [US officials] respectfully listen, but when I talk about Latin America, they take out a pencil and take notes."

Although the European Union and the US have broadly shared policy goals toward Latin America, their tactics have differed, as was the case last year when the EU unilaterally lifted sanctions on Cuba. The effort toward a shared approach comes as Obama unveils his Latin America policy at the Summit of the Americas, which begins Friday in Trinidad and Tobago.

Spain is thought to be playing a strong role in boosting dialogue between Cuba and the US. Spain has strongly supported the Obama administration's recent decision to ease travel and remittance restrictions, as well as opening the door to American investment in the communist island's telecommunication sector. Cuba's President Raúl Castro responded Friday by saying his country was open to talk with Washington.

"We have sent messages to the US government in private and in public that we are willing to discuss everything, whenever they want," he said while in Venezuela during a meeting with his ideological allies, which include Nicaragua and Bolivia. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on her way to Trinidad and Tobago, said the US was also open to talks.

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