US President Obama to Attend Historic Summit of the Americas in Panama

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United States President Barack Obama will head to Panama in April to attend the latest meeting of the Summit of the Americas, to be held in Panama City on the 10th and 11th of April 2015. This will be the 7th time the summit has met since its inauguration in 1994, where it was hosted in the US. This will be the first visit to Panama for Obama, who is in the final stretch of his second term. The summit will also be historic, as it will also be attended by a delegation from Cuba, opening up face-to-face talks for the first time in over 50 years. The Summit of the Americas is organized by the Organization of American states, otherwise known simply as OAS.

What is the Summit of the Americas?

summit of americas panamaAccording to their official website, “The Summits of the Americas are institutionalized gatherings of the heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced in the Americas.” And this year is a crucial one when it comes to regional bilateral discussions. Venezuela is suffering a major social and economic crisis. Brazil and Argentina are struggling with recession and inflation. The 10-year economic surge in Latin America is cooling off. And Cuba has been thawing relations with the United States, with both sides hoping to find some common ground to help build a positive future.

What is the significance of Obama attending?

While meeting with Cuban officials is probably the most talked about aspect of Obama’s visit to Panama, the US delegation has a lot more on their plate to get done. As there has been in the past, there is still a rift between North America and South America when it comes to political and economic ideology. Obama, as the face of the US, and probably the most recognizable leader at the conference, will be trying to connect with regional leaders who have potential to do business with the US. It’s also an opportunity for some Latin American delegations to express their frustration with US policies on Venezuela, and allow Obama to make his argument for why this policy is both fair, and justified. In short, the hopes are to bridge the diplomatic gap that has arisen between both sides.

The impact of the summit on Panama

Panama has been eagerly awaiting the Summit of the America for quite some time, and has put a massive effort into preparing for the big event. With so many high profile international delegations, security has been stepped up to unprecedented levels. During the April 10-11 event, many of the cities main arteries will be closed, including Ave. Balboa and limited access to Amador and the Centennial Bridge. According to the Panamanian police force, around 500 extra officers will be put on duty downtown during the summit as well. And while traffic is expected to be fierce, the economic impact will be a big win for Panama’s government and local economy.

Hotels in the city will boost their occupancy rate for the entire week as press, security teams, and political delegations arrive. Organizers also hope that this event’s success will help set a good example for possible future large-scale summits and political meetings. This is why it’s crucial that every thing goes to plan. It’s a big moment for Panama on the international stage, and should be a great opportunity to promote regional cooperation and mutual economic partnerships. 

About Manoj Chatlani

Manoj Chatlani is a Senior Partner at POLS Attorneys, a full-service law firm in Panama City, Panama. Specializing in offshore services, including asset protection, estate planning, offshore banking, and offshore corporations, as well as Panama immigration and real estate transactions, POLS Attorneys offers clients a streamlined solution to all their Panama legal needs. Manoj is a Panamanian lawyer and holds a law degree from USMA and earned a Masters in Communication Law and Panama Tax law.

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