Latin American politicians attending an international meeting of leaders broke out in applause Wednesday after the United States announced it would lift its embargo against Cuba, but even officials who weren't there called the move a victory. Heads of state in Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina praised U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro for moving past economic and financial sanctions imposed for more than 50 years.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called Obama's move to thaw the relations "courageous and necessary," Reuters reported. "It might be the most important act of his presidency," Maduro said. "Obama has said he cannot continue insisting on bringing Cuba to collapse."
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who Al Jazeera reported considers Cuba a "brother country," also said he supported improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba. So did Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, who said on TV the embargo lift was an "important, historic and courageous step."
But Obama wasn't the only one getting compliments. Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua's president, said Cuba "keeps surprising the world with the deployment of all its capabilities." Terra reported Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner also lauded Cuba's people and government, complimenting them for preserving their ideals while negotiating compromise with the U.S. "Cooperation without grudges,” she said, “recognizing the difficulty of the task and sincerely supporting it. Helping to obtain a result without looking for anything in return."
At least two country officials referenced next year's Summit of the Americas, an international meeting of leaders scheduled for April 10 and April 11 in Panama City. Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela tweeted that the summit will "fulfill the dream of a united region."
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he hoped the summit would be a reunion for American and Cuban representatives. "On behalf of all the Colombian people and I think the whole continent, we celebrate the boldness and courage of President Obama and the Cuban government to make this decision," Santos said, according to Al Jazeera. "It is a fundamental step for the normalization of the two countries that will impact very well in the hemisphere."
Several leaders made comments indicating they hoped the decision meant improved relations between the U.S. and other Latin American countries was not far off. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called the news a fantastic "change in civilization," and Uruguayan President José Mujica said the embargo lift opens up opportunities for normalization of relations overall.
Chilean Minister of Foreign Relations Heraldo Muñoz was more specific, saying the U.S.-Cuba decision signaled an imminent end to the Americas' persistent cold war. "This is a step to make that definitively the past," he said.