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Obama reiterates equal partnership with Latin America

(Xinhua)

13:25, April 15, 2012

CARTAGENA, Colombia, April 14 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated on Saturday that all nations in the Americas are equal partners, with no one being "senior or junior," as he called for greater efforts and proposed concrete measures to better connect the hemisphere.

" I'll say it again -- in the Americas there are no senior or junior partners, we're simply partners," the president told the sixth Summit of the Americas, echoing what he said at the last summit three years back.

"That's the spirit that's allowed us to make progress in recent years," he told 30 other hemispheric peers.

Obama's stated pursuit of partnership with Latin America marks a departure from his predecessors, who had pursued a leadership role in the region.

He told the assembled leaders that the Americas must continue cooperation and collaboration in boosting trade and development, defending the security of its citizens and standing up for democracy and human rights.

On the fight against drug trafficking, which he acknowledged " very difficult," the president stressed that his country will not relent in its efforts.

"Here in Cartagena, I hope we can focus on our mutual responsibilities," he said. "As I've said many times, the United States accepts our share of responsibility for drug violence."

Polls have shown the general public in Latin America see crime, violence and insecurity as the region's top problem, and there is a growing consensus that the root cause is the massive use of narcotics in the United States, and an unending flow of money and weapons southward to drug cartels.

"That's why we've dedicated major resources to reducing the southbound flow of money and guns to the region. It's why we've devoted tens of billions of dollars in the United States to reduce the demand for drugs," he remarked.

"And I promise you today -- we're not going to relent in our efforts," he said.

Addressing a CEO summit of the Americas earlier Saturday, the president said "no" to the idea of legalizing and decriminalizing drugs as proposed by some Central American leaders.

"I personally, and my administration's position, is that legalization is not the answer," he said.

"If you think about how it would end up operating, that the capacity of a large-scale drug trade to dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint could be just as corrupting if not more corrupting then the status quo," he explained.

Washington launched the 1.6 billion-U.S.-dollars Merida Initiative in 2008 to help fund the anti-drug operations in both Mexico and Central America.

"Today, I can announce that the United States will increase our commitment to more than 130 million dollars this year to support the regional security strategy led by our Central American friends, " Obama said at the summit.

Seeking to build on what he called sustained engagement with the region, the president announced a series of initiatives, including the Broadband Partnership of the Americas, which aims to provide faster Internet to more communities, especially in rural areas, to "ensure that no one is left behind in our digital age."

In his remarks, Obama did not mention Cuba, which is shut from the summit for the sixth time due to Washington's opposition.

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