By Helen Murphy
Nov. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Latin American leaders seized on the election of Barack Obama as an opportunity to mend the U.S.'s rocky relations in the hemisphere, with two renewing calls for the end of the Cuban trade embargo.
``The hour has arrived to establish new relations among our countries and with our region,'' said an e-mailed statement from Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez regularly demonizes the U.S. ``The historic election of an Afro-descendant to the head of the most powerful country in the world is a sign that the change that's been carried out in South America may be reaching the doorstep of the U.S.''
The calls to normalize relations with Cuba after an almost five-decade estrangement came from Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, one of the region's closest U.S. allies, and Bolivian President Evo Morales, one of its most antagonistic leaders.
``I hope the blockade of Cuba ends, because it no longer has any justification in the history of humanity,'' Lula said yesterday in Brasilia. His comments were echoed an hour later in La Paz, Bolivia: ``My great desire is that Mr. Obama lifts the economic embargo on Cuba,'' Morales said.