Summit Ending On Hopeful Note For Obama

United States President Barack Obama walks to the family photo session with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the 5th Summit of the America's in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago Saturday April 18, 2009. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld)
AP Photo/Adrian Wyld
President Barack Obama is wrapping up a summit with other leaders in the Western Hemisphere on Sunday the same way he began it: Pledging to reshape the image of the U.S. as a humble partner in addressing problems throughout the region.

Mr. Obama had entered the Fifth Summit of the Americas hopeful he could make the United States "an effective partner" with other nations in the region by listening to the concerns of other leaders.

In a written statement the White House said President Obama used his first meeting with Latin American and Caribbean leaders "to start engaging in a new relationship," focusing on efforts to "forge partnerships and joint approaches to work on common challenges."

As the summit drew to a close, the White House said leaders have agreed to cooperate in addressing a number of important problems, such as the financial crisis, food security, energy and climate change, but notes, "much more needs to be done," reports CBS News White House correspondent Peter Maer.

On security issues, the White House admitted the U.S. must do more to reduce the flow of firearms to Latin America and the Caribbean, Maer said.

The president also held out the possibility of future increased U.S. financial aid to deal with crime, illegal trafficking, and shipping and aviation security.

At the meeting held on the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, the president was hopeful that he'd boosted the image of the U.S. among its friends in the region - and perhaps even made some new ones. Among those seemingly charmed by the president's promise of a new, more equal partnership was Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, the fiery leftist who famously likened former President George W. Bush to the devil.

After several friendly encounters with President Obama, Chavez approached Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about restoring normal diplomatic ties, officials said. The two countries expelled each others' envoys last September.

"I think President Obama is an intelligent man, compared to the previous U.S. president," Chavez told reporters during the summit.

Mr. Obama was also cautiously optimistic about Cuba's offer of comprehensive talks, including previously off-limits subjects like political prisoners and freedom of the press. Cuba's overture followed Obama's move to ease some travel and remittance restrictions.

(AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
(St. Lucia's Prime Minister Stephenson King asks President Obama for an authograph as other heads of state look on before the official photo is taken at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, Saturday, April 18, 2009.)

However, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stressed Washington would like actions as well as talk.

"We're anxious to see what the Cuban government is willing to step up to do," he said.

Some relations may still remain frosty. Maer reports that President Obama also greeted Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (who delivered a 52-minute anti-American speech at the opening of the summit) with a very business-like "How are you, sir?" before quickly moving on to greet other Central American leaders.

As the 34-nation meeting drew to a close, the White House called it a productive one.

"We are confident that we'll go home with some very robust commitments on energy and climate, on ... public security, and a renewal of the region's commitment to democracy," Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough said.

If anyone's fortunes may have risen coming out of the summit, it may be those of Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano, author of the book, "The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent."

The 1971 book documents how foreign interests have dominated and afflicted Latin America since the Spanish conquest.

On Saturday the paperback edition was ranked 54,295 on the online retailer before Chavez gave Mr. Obama a Spanish-language edition of the book on Saturday.

It had jumped to No. 5 by Sunday.

The English hardcover edition is listed as out of print.