By MICHAEL ASTOR
2009-03-17 05:01 AM
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday called on the United States to end its economic embargo of Cuba, saying it makes no sense in the 21st Century.
Speaking at a Wall Street Journal-sponsored investment forum in New York, Silva also pointed to El Salvador's presidential election on Sunday as evidence democracy has spread across Latin America, warranting a reevaluation of the United States' relationship with the region.
At the end of his speech, Silva said the Cuba embargo is widely opposed across the region.
"There is nothing any more from the political perspective, from sociological perspective, from the humanitarian perspective that impedes the reestablishment of relations between the United States and Cuba," Silva said. "It's not possible in the 21st Century to make policy looking toward the 20th Century _ let's think about looking toward the 22nd Century."
While Silva did not directly say that he broached the subject of Cuba during his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday, it was likely among the top issues discussed.
Following the meeting, both Obama and Silva praised the relationship between the two countries, calling the meeting "productive" but providing few details.
Silva, who is Brazil's first working class president, enjoys good relations with the U.S. as well as with left-leaning leaders in Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, giving him an important role in the region helping to mediate disputes.
Silva said he had been in touch with Latin American presidents and all were in favor of working together to forge a new relationship with the U.S. under the Obama administration.
"All of them want to work in partnership with the U.S. All of them are expecting the U.S. to establish a new relationship, a constructive relationship not based on political interference," Silva said, mentioning Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales as leaders he had spoken to.
"The United States of North America has the obligation and the extraordinary opportunity to re-establish a new relationship with Latin America," he said.
Silva said the upcoming Summit of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas, to be held in Trinidad and Tobago in April, would be the "ideal scenario" for Obama and Latin American leaders to re-establish this new relationship of mutual respect.