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Latin American leaders demand end to US embargo

Presidents of 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries have made an unprecedented joint declaration demanding an end to the USA's 46-year-old economic embargo on Cuba.

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AFP -  The United States should be given an ultimatum to lift its embargo on Cuba or see its ambassadors across Latin America expelled, Bolivian President Evo Morales said Wednesday.

Morales made the argument at a summit in Brazil of presidents and top officials from 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Cuban President Raul Castro.

He said the incoming administration of president-elect Barack Obama should be given a deadline for ending the economic sanctions in place against Cuba since 1962 or risk having US envoys declared personas non grata in Latin America.

The leftwing Bolivian president in September ordered out the US ambassador to his country, accusing him of fomenting unrest. His ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, also at the summit, did the same.

"It would be very important to give an ultimatum to the new United States government to lift the economic blockade. If the new United States government doesn't lift the economic blockade, we should expel its ambassadors," Morales said.

He said such a step would be "a radical move so that solidarity is truly expressed."

The summit's host, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, distanced himself from Morales's call.

"We have to wait" for Obama to take power "to see what he proposes for Latin America, what treatment he will give Cuba, (and) the Middle East to know if (US) foreign policies will change or not," Lula told a later news conference with Morales at his side.

"Prudence and political diplomacy" was needed until Obama was formally made US president, he said, though he reaffirmed his opposition to the US sanctions on Cuba.

"I am unable to understand the continued blockade of Cuba. It doesn't make any sense," Lula said.

The summit on Tuesday already voiced its support for Cuba and for an end to the embargo.

Obama, who takes power on January 20, is seen as bringing potential for alleviating the decades-long tense relations between the United States and the communist-ruled island.

He has said he is willing to speak with Cuba's leaders, but told Cuban exiles in Miami during his presidential campaign that he intended to maintain the embargo.

The Cuban government claims it has lost 93 billion dollars since the start of the sanctions, which Washington has kept in place to pressure Cuba to accept multiparty democracy.
 

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