CARTAGENA, Colombia — A summit meeting of Western Hemisphere nations ended without a final statement of consensus Sunday, after the United States and some Latin American nations remained sharply divided over whether to continue excluding Cuba from such gatherings.
President Barack Obama and President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, the host, each proclaimed the Summit of the Americas a success at a joint news conference afterward, though the gathering yielded no major achievement. The meeting, the first since 2009, served mostly as a forum for leaders from more than 30 nations to air their positions on energy, trade and drug trafficking.
Obama and Santos each lauded their nations' separate accord over labor rights in Colombia, which cleared the way for Obama to allow the free trade agreement that the two nations concluded last year to take effect on May 15.
The developments made for a decidedly mixed result for Obama this weekend. By refusing to sign a statement that would have called for the next summit meeting to include Cuba, Obama avoided antagonizing some Cuban-American voters in Florida, a crucial battleground state in this year's presidential election. But he angered his political allies among U.S. union leaders and liberal groups, who had urged him not to certify that Colombia had met its obligations on labor rights.
The issue of Cuba's exclusion from events like the Summit of the Americas gathering has been a perennially divisive one. While the push to include Cuba was led by leftist governments in the region, including Venezuela and Bolivia, Santos also joined in the effort, calling the U.S. position a Cold War anachronism.
Before his news conference with Obama, Santos told reporters, "The fact there is no declaration is not a failure — just the opposite." He said that "the fact that these topics were discussed is a success."
At the news conference, Obama defended the United States' stance on Cuba, which had support from Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada.
"Cuba, unlike the other countries that are participating, has not yet moved to democracy," Obama said.