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optimism emerges at summit conference

President Barack Obama shook hands with America's hemispheric neighbors Saturday, at the 5th ever summit conference in Trinidad and Tobago.

Obama proclaimed a new dawn for relations in southern regions, which had been marked by bitter disagreements in recent years with the United States.

"I have a lot to learn and I very much look forward to listening and figuring out how we can work together more effectively," Obama said as reported by MNSBC.

The two-day summit led critics of the Obama administration with doubts.

Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada, said in an interview with the New York Times, that it was “irresponsible for the president” to be seen laughing and joking with “one of the most anti-American leaders in the entire world,” referring to Mr. Chávez.

However, many others are hopeful that the summit will be a doorway to such discussions of the US trade embargo and political prisoners.

According to the New York Times, Obama also sought to calibrate his message, saying Sunday that he had “great differences” with Mr. Chávez and insisting that freedom for the Cuban people would remain the guiding principle of his foreign policy.