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Obama Heads Into Jamaica And The Caribbean As Venezuela Withdraws

Lechmoore Simms

President Obama heads this week to the Summit of the Americas in Panama where he’ll meet with the hemisphere’s other heads of state. But Obama first travels on Wednesday to Jamaica – where Caribbean leaders may be happier than usual to see him.

Like so many stories in Latin America and the Caribbean these days, this one involves Venezuela and its socialist, anti-U.S. government. That’s because Venezuela’s economy is collapsing. Which means it can no longer afford its multi-billion-dollar Petrocaribe program. For years it’s provided poor, energy-starved Caribbean nations with cheap, subsidized oil.

The Caribbean is an important hemispheric crossroads. So as Venezuela begins to withdraw, Washington sees a chance to fill the void and strengthen its own ties with the region.

Hence President Obama’s two-day state visit to Jamaica. He’ll meet with Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and other leaders of the Caribbean community, or Caricom, whose countries are suffering some of the world’s heaviest debt crises.

From there for Obama it’s on to Panama and the Summit of the Americas, which takes place April 10 and 11.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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