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The Globe and Mail

Canada splits with Latin America on Cuba, war on drugs

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays with his translation aid as he waits for the plenary session to begin at the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Saturday April 14, 2012.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

A summit of nearly 30 Western Hemisphere leaders has ended without a joint declaration due to divisions over Cuba and Argentine claims to the Falkland Islands.

"There is no declaration because there is no consensus," said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as the summit's closing news conference.

The U.S., backed by Canada, stood fast against widespread demands to include in the meeting's final declaration language specifying that Cuba be included in future hemispheric summits.

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They had also balked at backing Argentina's claims to the British-held Falkland Islands.

"All the countries here in Latin American and the Caribbean want Cuba to be present. But the United States won't accept," President Evo Morales of Bolivia told reporters late Saturday. "It's like a dictatorship."

Mr. Morales and other leftist leaders have been insistent that this weekend's meeting in this Caribbean colonial port, which wrapped up at midday, will be the last regional summit under Organization of American States auspices unless Cuba is invited in the future.

But Mr. Santos said the leaders agreed to meet again in 2015 in Panama.

"Hopefully within three years we can have Cuba" at the summit, Mr. Santos said.

Canada and the United States have emerged as the outliers at the conference as Latin American and Caribbean countries united in the final hours in their support for Cuba's presence at future meetings.

Ecuador and Nicaragua simply boycotted this year's summit, and powerhouses Brazil and Argentina were threatening not to sign on to any declaration that did not address Cuba's absence.

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There was also a split between north and south over the drug trade. Many leaders have called for a new, open discussion about new solutions to drug related violence — possibly including legalization of illicit drugs.

Mr. Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama have said they cannot support anything but the prohibition of those substances.

Mr. Harper came to the Summit of the Americas with the hope of bolstering valuable ties with the region.

He announced Sunday more funding to help Central American countries combat the crippling violence caused by drug cartels that has wreaked havoc in the region.

A new Canadian Initiative for Security in Central America will spend $25-million over five years to help with the training of law enforcement agencies and the providing of police equipment.

Mr. Harper's main goal at the summit was to promote Canada as a destination for trade and investment, and to support Canadian businesses as they seek new opportunities in the region. He will fly to Santiago at the close of the summit for an official visit to Chile.

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The Conservative government is trying to revitalize its five-year-old Americas Strategy, a policy of focused engagement in the region.

With a report from The Associated Press

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