- Associated Press - Sunday, April 15, 2012

CARTAGENA, Colombia — A summit of nearly 30 Western Hemisphere leaders has ended without a joint declaration because of divisions over Cuba and Argentine claims to the Falkland Islands.

“There is no declaration because there is no consensus,” said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the summit’s closing news conference.

The United States, backed by Canada, stood fast against widespread demands to include in the meeting’s final declaration language specifying that communist-ruled Cuba be included in future hemispheric summits.

They had also balked at backing Argentina’s claims to the Falkland Islands, a British territory. Argentina lost a war to Britain over the islands in 1982.

“All the countries here in Latin American and the Caribbean want Cuba to be present. But the United States won’t accept,” President Evo Morales of Bolivia told reporters late Saturday.

Mr. Morales and other leftist leaders have been insistent that this weekend’s meeting in this Caribbean colonial port, which wrapped up at midday, will be the last regional summit under Organization of American States auspices unless Cuba is invited in the future.

But Mr. Santos said the leaders agreed to meet again in 2015 in Panama.

“Hopefully within three years we can have Cuba” at the summit, he said.

President Obama’s peers lectured him Saturday over his unflagging opposition to Cuban participation because of U.S. objections to the Cuba’s lack of democracy and poor human rights record.

The Cuba issue led Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to boycott the summit, and Nicaragua’s leftist President Daniel Ortega also sat out the meeting, though he offered no explanation. Venezuela’s cancer-stricken president Hugo Chavez also was absent. On Saturday he flew to Cuba, where he has been undergoing radiation therapy.

The Obama administration has greatly eased family travel and remittances to Cuba, but has not dropped the half-century U.S. embargo against the island.

U.S. commercial and political influence in the region has been in decline as China gains on the U.S. as a top trading partner. Many analysts say these regional summits tend to be unwieldy and only make sense if they are a departure for serious follow-up on substantive issues.

“The label, ‘Americas,’ doesn’t seem to mean that much anymore unless you’re a cartographer,” said analyst Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America.

The first Summit of the Americas was convened in Miami in 1994 by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton. In subsequent summits, U.S. attempts to create a hemispheric free-trade zone collapsed. South America’s rising left further eroded U.S. influence.

For some, the summit was overshadowed by an embarrassing scandal involving prostitutes and U.S. Secret Service agents.

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