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Morning Brief: Pressing the ‘reiniciar’ button

Top Story Millions of Latin Americans may be falling into poverty this year as a result of the financial crisis, but it was politics, not economics, that dominated the stage at this weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, with two friendly meetings between Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama stealing the spotlight. Obama ...

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (R) gives a book, 'The Open Veins of Latin America' of Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano to US President Barack Obama (L) during a multilateral meeting to begin during the Summit of the Americas at the Hyatt Regency in Port of Spain, Trinidad April 18, 2009. AFP PHOTO/Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Top Story

Millions of Latin Americans may be falling into poverty this year as a result of the financial crisis, but it was politics, not economics, that dominated the stage at this weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, with two friendly meetings between Hugo Chavez and Barack Obama stealing the spotlight.

Obama is defending his cordial treatment of the Venezuelan leader from critics in the U.S., though the exchange seems to have gone over well with other Latin American leaders. Chavez also approached Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the possibility of returning ambassadors to their posts in Caracas and Washington.

Obama finished the summit with a news conference in which he called for U.S. relations with Latin America to address areas other than drug interdiction. “If our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence,” he said. 

Obama acknowledged that the U.S. embargo on Cuba has not been effective at bringing democracy to that country, though economic advisor Larry Summers cautioned that an end to the embargo is “way down the road.”

Americas

The New York Times reports that al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003.

Bank of America beat analysts’ expectations by tripling profits in the first three months of 2009.

Mexican authorities foiled an attempt by gunmen to free drug cartel leaders from custody, though eight police officers were killed in the attack.

Middle East

Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi is appealing her conviction after being sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage.

Iraq’s parliament has chosen a new speaker after weeks of sectarian infighting.

A suicide bomber attacked a U.S. military delegation in Iraq, injuring eight soldiers.

Asia

Sri Lanka has given the Tamil Tiger rebels a 24-hour ultimatum to surrender or face a final assault aimed at crushing the insurgency.

Government officials from North and South Korea plan to meet for the first time in a year tomorrow to attempt to defuse recent tensions. 

Pakistanis are furious at a decision by the International Cricket Council to take away the country’s hosting of the 2011 Cricket World Cup due to security concerns.

Europe

A UN anti-racism conference began in Geneva. Israel, the U.S. and several other countries are boycotting the event to protest an address by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The suspected leader of Basque separatist group ETA was arrested in France.

The European Commission is investigating seven European airlines for anti-competitive cooperation.

Africa

Former South African president Nelson Mandela appeared at a rally for African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma, giving a political boost to the likely future president.

Gunmen in Mogadishu, Somalia are demanding a $1 million ransom for the release of three kidnapped foreign aid workers.

Ousted Madagascarian leader Marc Ravalomanana claims he is still president and may be planning a return to the country. 

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

 Twitter: @joshuakeating

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