The Fifth Summit of the Americas kicks off in Trinidad and Tobago on April 17. President Obama will attend. U.S. diplomats are hard at work to make it the starting point for a “New Day” in Latin American partnership. Several Latin American leaders, however, are working hard to create difficulties and force U.S.-Latin America splits.

On his way to Iran this week, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez stopped off in Qatar. He wants Arab leaders to join him in creating a “petro-currency” to replace the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency as a stepping stone to a more multi-polar world. He extended an arm of solidarity to Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir. This is same leader served with an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March 2009 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. An estimated 300,000 individuals have died as a result of Sudan’s directed violence in Darfur. Credible allegations of genocide against the Sudanese leader cannot faze President Chavez. “This arrest warrant,” he affirmed, “is a mockery! They [the ICC] should be arresting Bush instead for the thousands of people killed in Iraq.”

[FYI – while membership in the ICC is on the agenda of many liberal internationalists in Washington, the U.S. has thus far declined to ratify the treaty.]

On the road in Colombia, the Secretary General of the Organization American States (OAS) Miguel Insulza pressed for Cuba’s inclusion in Latin American bodies. According to Insulza, a former foreign minister of democratic Chile and fierce opponent of military dictator Augusto Pinochet, the 1962 OAS resolution that banned Cuba from the Washington-based assembly because of its links to communism, China and the Soviet Union no longer makes sense.

“One of the countries has disappeared [forget Russia’s return as a global military spoiler] and the other is buying a lot of U.S. Treasuries,” Insulza said at the Inter- American Development Bank’s annual meeting. “Please, if they’re going to be excluded, let’s come up with some better criteria.”

Communism, the dictatorship of the Castro brothers, the absence of any semblance of a democratic process in Cuba? Are these not valid criteria? Apparently not! “Cuba’s fundamental problem is the U.S. embargo, not whether or not it belongs to specific organizations like the OAS,” said Insulza.

Remarked conciliatory Vice President Joseph Biden, during his recent trip in the region to attend a progressive summit, “the time of the United States dictating unilaterally, the time where we only talk and don’t listen is over.”

Is there a creeping danger that the shoe may actually be on the other foot as Latin American leaders attempt to dictate policy to President Obama and the U.S. at the Summit?