How Port of Spain is Not Prague

In Europe, Barack Obama was the one asking for help. At this weekend’s Summit of the Americas, the president will be the one asked to deliver.

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Port of Spain is not Prague. For one thing, the weather forecast calls for average temperatures around 90 degrees this weekend. But when President Obama arrives in the Caribbean on Friday for the fifth Summit of the Americas, climate will not be the only dramatic change from his recent European travels.

Festive will replace formal. Steel band music will replace pomp and circumstance. And the expectations will be almost reversed, too. Obama went to Europe asking for help with the world economic crisis and the war in Afghanistan; there is some debate about how disappointed he should have been with the European response.

But when the 34 summit member countries convene in the Trinidad and Tobago capital, Obama will be the one in a position to disappoint or deliver. Latin America has managed to escape the worst of the economic meltdown so far. Their primary concern now is how to keep U.S. troubles at bay and how soon Obama can engineer some kind of recovery. The ability to develop Western hemisphere countries to stave economic collapse may be one of the best indicators of the potential for a global recovery.

Considering that he won't be able to deliver the big U.S. aid increases to the region that he promised during the campaign,” writes veteran journalist Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald, noting that the president is already under attack at home for spending too much. “…Obama may focus on a few less grandiose but politically doable economic goals.”

Among other things, Oppenheimer suggests that Obama makes sure that some of the trillion dollars pledged to the IMF for global stimulus makes its way into the economies of the region.