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Summit of the Americas: Why does it matter?

The Summit of the Americas opened
with 35 heads of state and government present in Panama on Friday,
Obama approaches Castro in PanamaObama approaches Castro in Panamaushering in the first meeting between the heads of state
of Cuba and the US for over half a century.
At the end of the two-day summit
participants were expected to agree on a series of action points.
But why should we care about the Summit?

- What is the Summit of the Americas?

The Summit of the Americas is a meeting of heads of state and representatives from the 35 countries that make up the Americas.

The previous meeting was held in Colombia in April 2012; they are not held at fixed intervals. This meeting, the seventh such gathering, will be held in Panama.

The first ever Summit of the Americas was summoned by Simon Bolivar, the famed "liberator of the Americas", who called a meeting in Panama for newly-independent states in 1826. Marie Arana, author of a 2013 biography of Bolivar, said: "The tensions between the US and Latin America have not really changed since the days of Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams."

One key difference, though: The current summit last two days. That early meeting lasted three weeks.

The first summit of the modern era, under the Organisation of American States, was held in 1956, but they only began to be held under their current format in 1994. Since then summits have been held from Miami to Bolivia; from Quebec to Trinidad and Tobago.

Among the 12,000 people attending this year are Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Ban Ki-moon and the presidents of Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, Argentina and - for the first time - Cuba ...

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