At a summit of South American leaders in Trinidad today, President Obama asked his fellow world leaders to avoid blaming the US for their woes — and in return, got a book from Venezuela's firebrand president, Hugo Chavez, called Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of Pillage of a Continent. Though Obama expressed a desire to loosen America's embargo and strict policies on Cuba, he noted that the change will take time, and implored his audience of democratically-elected leaders to consider Cuba's tyrannical leadership. Obama aides say their boss is seeking to "turn the page" on US-Latin American relations by being mindful of history and open to the future. On the policy side, American representatives met with Colombia's president and finance minister to work on the pending US-Colombia free-trade agreement that Obama opposes due to Colombia's dicey record on labor. As for Obama's interactions with Chavez, The Wall Street Journal notes that the socialist leader "railed against the US just days ago but seems to be reveling in interacting with Mr. Obama at the summit." The gift book—a Latin American history penned by famed Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano—was inscribed by Chavez: "For Obama, with warm regards." But will Obama read it? Probably not, say aides: The book is in Spanish, which Obama is not known to read in.
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