Summit of the Americas produces divisions

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon (C) speaks with Chile's President Sebastian Pinera and US President Barack Obama (2ndR) as Honduras' President Porfirio Lobo (L) and Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli (R) look onduring the VI Summit of the Americas' family photo session, in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on April 15, 2012. Getty Images

(AP) CARTAGENA, Colombia - Though physically absent, Cuba cast a big shadow over this Caribbean port at a summit of 30 Western Hemisphere leaders that ended Sunday.

Leftist Latin American leaders repeatedly harangued the United States for continuing to insist that the communist island nation be barred from the 18-year-old Summit of the Americas circuit.

Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua were unequivocal: They won't come to the next summit, set for Panama in 2015, if Cuba can't come, too.

Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, boycotted this summit over the issue.

"There is no declaration because there is no consensus," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced at the closing news conference. He said he hoped that Cuba will attend the next one.

The United States and Canada were alone in opposing Cuban participation, and they also refused to endorse in a final declaration Argentina's claims to the British-held Falkland Islands.

President Evo Morales of Bolivia said the United States was acting "like a dictatorship."

But Sunday's outcome doesn't necessarily mean the Sixth Summit of the Americas was the last.

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"We have four more years to incorporate Cuba," said Argentina's foreign minister, Hector Timerman.

His Brazilian counterpart, Antonio Patriota, said such summits are "valuable opportunities that should be repeated."

Nearly all the leaders left Cartagena quickly Sunday, allowing U.S. President Barack Obama and his Colombian host to get down to some business of their own.

They announced implementation next month of a free trade agreement that Obama said would increase U.S. imports by $1 billion a year and that Santos said would create 500,000 jobs. U.S. and Colombian labor leaders contend the accord lacks adequate mechanisms to halt killings that make this Andean nation the world's most dangerous for trade union activists.

As another sign of strengthening ties, Obama and Santos said Colombians would now be able to obtain visas to the United States that will be valid for 10 years, doubling the previous limit.

In addition to Correa, President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua also sat out the weekend meeting, though he offered no explanation. Venezuela's cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez also was absent. He flew Saturday night to Cuba, where he has been undergoing radiation therapy.

The United States has a half-century-old economic embargo on Cuba and says the island doesn't meet the summit's democratic standards.

Nevertheless, Obama said Sunday that he was "hopeful" for a transition, mentioning changes he'd made in U.S.-Cuba policy such as allowing U.S.-based relatives to travel there and to send money.

"I am not someone who brings to the table a lot of baggage from the past and I want to look at this problem in a new and different way," said Obama, who at the 2009 Americas summit in Trinidad declared the U.S. a partner among equals in the region.

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