Brazil: Cuba and Drugs lead agenda at Cartagena summit

Hempispheric leaders attend sixth Summit of the Americas, Hillary Clinton to visit Brasília, and the country gets its first Steve Jobs Avenue.

Summit of the Americas

Regional leaders gathered behind closed doors on Saturday night in Cartagena, Colombia for the 6th Summit of the Americas, with controversial themes including potential alternatives to the failing War on Drugs and relations with Cuba high on the agenda.

The two-day conference began under heavy security in the Caribbean town, thanks to the presence of 31 of the Western Hemisphere’s high-profile leaders, including Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and her US counterpart Barack Obama, meeting again just a week after Rousseff’s state visit to Washington.

The summit’s official theme was ‘Connecting the Americas: Partnerships for Prosperity,’ but Cuba’s continued exclusion from the group – as well as the pros and cons of the legalization of narcotics in light of the persistent failures of the US-backed War on Drugs – dominated the proceedings. Regional security, and the repercussions of the 2009 Honduras coup, are among eight other key issues debated at the summit, as described by blogger Boz in this recent post.

Global Issues on the agenda for Clinton’s visit

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced on Thursday that her visit to Brasília next week will focus on ‘global themes,’ with Iran and Syria high on the agenda. The two countries have rarely seen eye to eye on foreign affairs in recent years, with Brazil often critical of interventionist US policy, but there is still hope in Washington that Rousseff may adopt a more friendly stance than her predecessor Lula da Silva.

On Syria, the Brazilian government voted in favour of a UN declaration calling for president Bashar Al-Assad to stand down in late February. As yet, however, Itamaraty has rejected the idea, backed by US and European leaders,  of imposing sanctions on the Assad regime.

Similarly, Rousseff’s position with regard to Iran – whose nuclear programme is regarded in Washington as military in nature – is at odds with her northern neighbours. Last month she described sanctions imposed against Iranian petroleum as ‘extremely dangerous’.

Steve Jobs Avenue, Jundiai

The city of Jundiai, in São Paulo state, is the proud owner of Brazil’s first Avenida Steve Jobs, after the city council confirmed the renaming of the road formerly known as Marginal da Rodovia Anhanguera. More than just a publicity stunt, though, the town has a relatively legitimate reason for renaming the avenue in honour of the Apple founder, playing host as it does to a factory manufacturing iPods and iPads for the giant US corporation.

The factory, owned and operated by controversial Taiwanese firm Foxconn, opened recently after months of speculation that Apple would begin manufacturing in Brazil. As yet, the firm has managed to avoid the kind of allegations it has suffered about its Chinese factories, where allegedly terrible working conditions and low wages have caused international controversy.