But one of the things that I mentioned in both public remarks as well as private remarks is that the United States obviously has a history in this region that’s not always appreciated from the perspective of some, but that what we need to do is try to move forward, and that I am responsible for how this administration acts and we will be respectful to those democratically elected governments, even when we disagree with them.
Scott Wilson, Washington Post.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said during the summit that you were here not to debate the past. You also said we must learn from our history. You just referred to this history. What have you learned over two days of listening to leaders here about how U.S. policy is perceived in the region? And can you name a specific policy that you will change as a result of what you’ve heard?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that what was reemphasized in all the discussions that I had was a sense, on the one hand, that the United States is critical to the economic growth and opportunities in the region. Even the most vociferous critics of the United States also want to make sure that the United States’ economy is working and growing again, because there is extraordinary dependence on the United States for exports, for remittances.
And so in that sense people are rooting for America’s success. I do think that there is a strain of thought in the region that, in the past, many of the problems surrounding economic growth and opportunity or the lack thereof resulted because of a too rigid application of a free market doctrine imposed by the IMF — what is termed the “Washington consensus.”
I think in some cases, those issues have been addressed. At the G20 summit, for example, we talked about the need to create a reformed international financial — set of international financial institutions that provide additional flexibility, provide more voice and vote to developing countries. In some cases, it may be just a carryover of knee-jerk anti-American sentiment, or simply differing — differences in terms of economic theories and how the economies should grow.
One thing that I thought was interesting — and I knew this in a more abstract way but it was interesting in very specific terms — hearing from these leaders who when they spoke about Cuba talked very specifically about the thousands of doctors from Cuba that are dispersed all throughout the region, and upon which many of these countries heavily depend. And it’s a reminder for us in the United States that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence and have — have a beneficial effect when we need to try to move policies that are of concern to us forward in the region.