Cuba Hopes for an Image Makeover as Obama Meets Latin American Leaders

President Barack Obama’s meeting with regional leaders at this week’s Summit of the Americas is likely to lead to the United States removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors …

President Barack Obama’s meeting with regional leaders at this week’s Summit of the Americas is likely to lead to the United States removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Such a decision, analysts say, would not only warm the relations between the two countries but also dramatically enhance Cuba’s economic prospects.

But the Latin American leaders waiting to meet Obama in Panama City do not appear overly concerned with Cuba; instead they are expected to pressure the U.S. president to lift the sanctions imposed on Venezuela, another socialist country whose economy is in the doldrums in the wake of a sudden drop in global oil prices.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) has already urged Obama to revoke the sanctions through an executive order, while other organizations have launched a petition in support of this measure.

Unlike the last summit, analysts say Obama is better positioned to deal with Latin American leaders this time. According to a recent survey from Pew Research, the majority of Latin Americans now have positive attitude toward the United States.

In eight of nine Latin American countries, majorities see the North American giant in a favorable light. Salvadorans (80%) are particularly positive in their assessment, as are Chileans (72%) and Nicaraguans (71%).

Despite all the tension between Washington and Caracas, 62% of Venezuelans have a favorable opinion of the United States, although less than four-in-ten Argentines (36%) are positively disposed toward the country.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is reportedly considering rescheduling her visit to Washington, which she cancelled in 2013 following revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on her.

Obama will stopover in Jamaica on his way to Panama City, where the summit gets underway on Thursday.

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