Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged nearly $100 million Friday in Canadian economic aid for Latin America, but this weekend he plans for a push for greater democracy and better human rights in the area.
The Prime Minister arrived in Panama City to attend the seventh Summit of the Americas, a regular gathering that allows leaders from more than 30 countries in the Western Hemisphere to meet, and for the first time Cuba has been invited to this. The warm invitation shows some signs of an improving relationship between Cuba and the United States, even after a half-century of distrust since the Cold War. U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro are expected to meet Saturday during the two-day event.
Harper, who before had not approved of inviting Cuba because it is not a democracy, is said to also be interested in meeting Castro at this gathering. This chance at reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba has only been a realistic goal because Canada aided secret negotiations between the two countries within its own soil.
If the meeting is successful and continual growth between the two becomes a reality, Harper plans to meet with Castro as well, only to tell him Cuba has work to do on improving human rights for its citizens. Also, Harper is set to deliver an address to all leaders at the summit that Canada has made it a priority to improve human relations through the region as a whole.
Before the start of the gathering Friday evening, Harper met with CEOs of Canadian companies, including Scotiabank, Barrick Gold, BlackBerry and Ellis Don, to come up with business opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Harper announced the details of seven projects that will last several years and receive a total of $98.1 million in Canadian government funds. The money will be distributed to Honduras, Colombia, Peru, Cuba and Guatemala for projects to boost mining, agriculture and coffee production.
According to the article, the Canadian government says its “Americas Strategy has three goals: increase Canadian and hemispheric ‘economic opportunity’; foster democracy, human rights and rule of law; and create ‘lasting friendships.’”
After making this move, I think Canada has become a major game-changer among the developed countries in improving human rights. Prime Minister Harper is a headstrong individual, and laying the groundwork for close economic ties with Latin American countries by investing millions into funds for their improvement is a commendable strategy. It serves as an example for the US government regarding its relations, or lack of, with Cuba. In recent months, American and Cuban negotiators have worked towards a deal to restore full relations but have failed, despite being facilitated by Canadian governement. Until the U.S. removes Cuba from its list of states that sponsor terrorism, no deal can be reached. Though the goal remains in grasp, Canada seems to be working well with human, political, and economic international relations.
Read the article here: http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/harper-pledges-funds-for-latin-america-will-press-for-better-human-rights