United States President Barack Obama has arrived in Cartagena on the eve of the Summit of the Americas.
Obama and his 700-strong delegation landed at Cartagena’s Rafael Nuñez International Airport at 4:45PM.
Under the theme of “Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity,” the Sixth Summit of the Americas brings together 32 leaders from across the Western Hemisphere. Missing are Cuba’s Raul Castro, who was barred from attending, and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa, who turned down his invitiation in protest.
Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez was expected in Cartagena today, but will now arrive for a one-day visit to the summit Saturday, on medical advice. He is recovering from chemotherapy treatment in Cuba.
The summit theme particularly suits growing ties between Colombia and the U.S., Obama told Latin American press Friday morning. He will be the first U.S. President to stay overnight in Colombia — a sign of Colombia’s improved security.
Relations between the host nation and the U.S. have featured prominently in media coverage and political rhetoric leading up to the summit. On Wednesday, White House spokesman Ben Rhodes called it a “model partnership, not just in the Americas, but in the world.”
Colombia has also enjoyed positive coverage in American media throughout the preceding week.
Public radio broadcaster NPR called the country “a magnet for foreign investment.” The Christian Science Monitor pegged Colombia as a growing force for untity in Latin America, and described Santos as a “new breed of leadership.”
The Washington Post ran an article headlined “‘Colombian miracle’ takes off.” Santos himself will appear on the cover of next week’s TIME Magazine alongside a headline hailing “The Colombian Comeback.”
At the same time, Obama faces opposition from some Latin America nations over the American stance on drug legalization, Cuba’s participation in the summit and increasing tensions between Argentina and the United Kingdom over the disputed Falkland Islands (Malvinas). The expected Sunday announcement that the Colombia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement has been finalized has also attracted strong criticism, given the continued labor rights violations and union killings in the Andean nation.
The summit runs Saturday and Sunday.