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Matthews: Summit of Americas shows promise, growth for Latin America

Let me finish tonight with this.I just returned from Colombia in the heart of Central America.

Let me finish tonight with this.

I just returned from Colombia in the heart of Central America. I've come back with enthusiasm for what's happening in this hemisphere.   

We in the United States so often narrow our focus to what affects us directly. We think of Latin America entirely, therefore, in the context of immigration: poor people coming north to find work. 

There's a much bigger story happening south of here than the poverty that remains at the bottom of the pyramid. I felt it in Cartagena where the presidents of the Americas met this weekend. I felt the confidence, the upbeat zest in the air--not arrogant, not in the least, not demanding, not really, but, as I said, in the palpable confidence of those around me.  

President Obama showed respect for this. There's none of the old attitude in him. He knows how to show respect to our fellow democracies, just as he knows how to treat the big "non-democracy," Cuba, to treat them just that way: as a dictatorship that has all the power in the world to join the other countries of the hemisphere if it wants to become a democracy. 

But the big good news is that what unites the Americas is a belief in free systems, in true electoral democracy, in free markets, and, most important to progressives, a commitment to bring people up from the bottom.

"The base of the pyramid." That was the phrase that caught me down there: the desire to bring up the poor from the bottom as they expand their gross domestic products. 

I heard this face-to-face from the leftish President of Brazil and also from the most centrist President of Colombia, President Santos, who was a deeply impressive host of the weekend in Cartagena. Latin America is on the road to giving jobs and hope to the people who need it most, and that can only be good news for this country.