The Miami Herald
Sun, March 29, 2009

Biden rules out lifting Cuban embargo

Special to The Miami Herald


In his first official visit to Latin America, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday the White House wants the region to play a more active role in organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and ruled out lifting the embargo on Cuba.

Biden spoke in Chile at the Summit of Progressive Leaders, a meeting of like-minded center-left politicians from the Americas and Europe.

In a news conference, he was asked if the Obama administration would back Latin American countries in a push for greater power within the world's multilateral institutions; if it would support reform of the U.N. charter; and if it would lift the decades-old Cuban embargo.

''Yes, yes and no,'' Biden responded. He acknowledged that the global economic crisis presented ''an opportunity to recalibrate the world economic agenda'' and that ''emerging countries should have a bigger say as we deal with that,'' saying that included reform of the World Bank and IMF.

Latin American countries have long complained that they are under-represented at the world's major political and economic bodies.

On Cuba, Biden said there was ``a need for a transition in our policy, but we all share one thing in common: We think the Cuban people should determine their own fate and that they should be able to live in freedom and with some prospect of economic prosperity.''

Biden's first official trip to Latin America has been watched closely for clues on how the White House will handle its relationship with Latin America, which was often strained during the Bush years.

In an op-ed piece published in 11 Latin America newspapers on the eve of the summit, Biden proclaimed ``a new day for partnership in the Americas.''

Common concerns were aired at Saturday's summit in this Chilean coastal resort. Biden met seven leaders, including the presidents of Argentina, Cristina Fernández and Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.