PORT-OF-SPAIN – U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday displayed great receptivity to the proposals of his Central American counterparts on the question of immigration reform, several of the leaders said after their meeting.
Obama met with the presidents of the Central American Integration System, or SICA, for more than an hour in Port-of-Spain, one of their last activities during the 5th Summit of the Americas, and the meeting was very cordial, according to Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom.
“There was commitment to support comprehensive immigration reform. Details were not discussed, but supporting the process was. The atmosphere was very good, cordial, sincere,” Colom said.
He and his colleagues from El Salvador, Tony Saca, and Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, emphasized that Obama had been especially receptive to one of the major concerns of Central American countries: the matter of deportations.
On the immigration issue, which completely dominated the meeting, the leaders also discussed matters like the possibilities for ensuring family reunification, quotas for agricultural jobs and the fight against drug trafficking, all within a friendly atmosphere amid which the leaders agreed in general terms on almost everything they talked about.
“There’s another attitude, totally different, in Obama’s behavior: more openness, more dialogue, more respect. There are good prospects,” said Zelaya, one of the leaders in the region who has been most critical of the United States and an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA.
The only leader to depart from this tone was Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose country also belongs to ALBA and who said of Obama, “he’s riding a system,” although he did not desire to blame the U.S. president for that.
“Obama is the president of an empire. That empire has its rules. He cannot change them. He has to battle with them,” said Ortega on that score.
Also at the meeting were Panamanian leader Martin Torrijos and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, whose nations, along with Belize, round out the Central American Integration System.