CARTAGENA, Colombia | Sat Apr 14, 2012 10:49am EDT
(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama stressed on Saturday the "great promise" for business growth in the Americas, seeking to play up the economic heft of the region he has paid little attention to in his first three years in office.
In remarks prepared for a meeting of corporate chief executives in Cartagena, Colombia, where he is attending the 33-nation Summit of the Americas, Obama described U.S.-Latin American ties as "one of the world's most dynamic trade relationships."
"With nearly a billion citizens – nearly a billion consumers – among us, there's so much more we can do together," according to excerpts of his speech released by the White House.
"For the Americas, this is a moment of great promise. And I believe if we seize the opportunities before us, we'll continue to be each other's economic partners of choice," he was set to tell the gathering of CEOs on Saturday morning, which precedes the formal start of the regional leaders' summit.
Among the companies represented at the CEO gathering were Pfizer Inc, Chevron, Pepsico and Cisco Systems Inc.
Obama, a Democrat running for re-election in November, is under pressure in Colombia to show he is committed to engaging with Latin America and is addressing regional issues including drug trafficking and violence.
His critics – including many pivotal Hispanic voters in the United States – have accused him of largely neglecting Washington's neighbors to concentrate on crises in the Middle East and Afghanistan and on an effort to boost U.S. trade ties with fast-growing Asia.
On his way to Colombia on Friday, Obama gave a speech at a shipping port in Tampa, Florida, on the ways U.S. businesses and workers can benefit from increased trade with Latin American countries like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.
Florida, with its large Hispanic population, is expected to be an electoral battleground on November 6 and Latino voters could also make or break Obama's re-election chances in swing states including Nevada, Colorado and Virginia.
Polls show the president well ahead of Mitt Romney – the presumed Republican nominee for the White House race – among Latino voters despite concerns about his lack of attention to Latin American issues and disappointment about his failure to produce the broad immigration reform he promised in 2008.
(Additional reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by Eric Beech and Vicki Allen)
The Trayvon Martin case has captivated the nation and sparked outrage & national outcry. Martin was a 17-year-old African-American young teen who was killed by a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, on the way from a 7-11 from buying Skittles & Arizona Iced Tea. Zimmerman, the shooter, claimed self-defense and was not arrested or charged with any crime. He hasn't still been arrested which has caused many to criticize the Sanford Police Department for its handling of the case.
Zimmerman already had an attorney, Craig Sooner, who was speaking out on his behalf. A new attorney, Hal Uhrig, has joined in for the defense on Zimmerman and has said some eyebrow raising things. Reutersreports:
SANFORD, Fla., April 6 (Reuters) – "Shaken Baby Syndrome" was cited on Friday in the defense of George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Florida, man who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that has sparked a widespread public outcry.
Hal Uhrig, a lawyer and former Gainesville, Florida, police officer who recently joined Zimmerman's defense team, cited in a TV interview the brain damage that can seriously injure or kill an infant.
His point, which has been made before, was that Zimmerman contends he shot Martin in self defense and feared for his life after the 17-year-old attacked him and began pounding his head into the concrete pavement of a gated community on a rainy evening in Sanford on Feb. 26.
But Uhrig's choice of words, and use of a recognized sign of child abuse to defend a 28-year-old man who killed a kid, seemed likely to raise more than just a few eyebrows.
"We're familiar with the Shaken Baby Syndrome," said Uhrig on the CBS This Morning program. "You shake a baby, the brain shakes around inside the skull. You can die when someone's pounding your head into the ground."
Apart from saying his client suffered a broken nose, Uhrig did not elaborate on the extent of any injuries Zimmerman actually suffered. But characteristic injuries associated with SBS, as Shaken Baby Syndrome is known, include bleeding in the brain. There are often no visible external signs such injuries have occurred.
Police have not arrested Zimmerman because the use of lethal force in self defense is permitted under the Stand Your Ground law approved by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2005.
The lack of an arrest in the Martin case has triggered protests across the United States. A special prosecutor appointed by Governor Rick Scott is investigating to decide whether charges are warranted, amid allegations of racial profiling and initial police bungling of the case.
If it goes to trial, Uhrig said he and his fellow defense attorney, would defend Zimmerman under the Stand Your Ground statute.
"He didn't commit any crime," Uhrig said on CBS. "He was attacked, broke his nose, hit his head into the ground and he defended himself. That's not against the law."
A USA Today/Gallup poll published on Saturday showed that Americans are deeply divided across color lines in their opinions about Martin's killing.
Seventy-three percent of blacks in the survey said they believed Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, would have been arrested if the person he shot dead was white.
Only 33 percent of whites agreed with that view while the majority of whites polled, 52 percent, said race made no difference in the case.
(Reporting By Tom Brown; Editing by Philip Barbara)