PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad - A Western Hemisphere summit was wrapping up on Sunday with President Barack Obama hopeful he'd boosted the image of the U.S. among its friends in the region and perhaps even made some new ones.
"There is great hope that with all the outreach ... we are indeed starting new relationships," said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough.
Obama was to meet with Central American leaders before the final working session of the Summit of the Americas here in the two-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. He was also scheduled to hold a news conference before returning home to Washington.
Among those seemingly charmed by the president's promise of a new, more equal partnership was Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, the fiery leftist who famously likened former President George W. Bush to the devil.
After several friendly encounters with Obama, Chavez approached Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about restoring normal diplomatic ties, officials said. The two countries expelled each others' envoys last September.
"I think President Obama is an intelligent man, compared to the previous U.S. president," Chavez told reporters.
As the 34-nation summit drew to a close, the White House called it a productive one.
"We are confident that we'll go home with some very robust commitments on energy and climate, on ... public security, and a renewal of the region's commitment to democracy," McDonough said.
Plus the president was cautiously optimistic about Cuba's offer of comprehensive talks, including previously off-limits subjects like political prisoners and freedom of the press. Cuba's overture followed Obama's move to ease some travel and remittance restrictions.
However, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs stressed Washington would like actions as well as talk.
"We're anxious to see what the Cuban government is willing to step up to do," he said.