President Barack Obama waves upon arrival to Cartagena, Colombia, April 13, 2012. Obama is in Cartagena to attend the sixth Summit of the Americas. (Credit: AP)
CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) -- A deepening scandal involving prostitutes and Secret Service agents is making it harder for President Barack Obama to keep the focus of his Colombia trip on boosting economic ties with Latin America.
The Secret Service says it has placed 11 employees on administrative leave for misconduct in Colombia, where they were working on security ahead of the president's visit.
The agency's assistant director says the employees were special agents and Uniformed Division officers who were not assigned to protect Obama himself.
The agency didn't disclose the nature of the allegations, but The Associated Press has confirmed that the behavior in question involved prostitutes.
The controversy has also expanded to the U.S. military, which announced five service members staying at the same hotel as the agents in Colombia may have been involved in misconduct as well. They were confined to their quarters and ordered not to have contact with others.
All the alleged activities took place before Obama arrived Friday in the port city of Cartagena (kahr-tah-HAY'-nah) for meetings with 33 other regional leaders.
The Secret Service says it regrets any distraction the situation has caused during the regional meetings.
CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) -- President Barack Obama's willingness to engage with America's adversaries comes with promise and peril.
That reality was hammered home by signs of progress in nuclear talks with Iran and a setback in North Korea's provocative rocket launch.
In Colombia, where Obama is attending a summit with Latin American leaders, the president has been confronted by the stubbornly stalled U.S.-Cuba relationship, despite his offer of a "new beginning" with the communist nation.
The convergence of events has focused fresh attention on a foreign policy strategy that puts a premium on keeping the door open for diplomacy, even with countries the U.S. considers "bad actors."
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- One prominent Latin American leader is absent from this weekend's Summit of the Americas in Colombia.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez skipped the gathering for medical reasons and headed to Cuba instead to continue with cancer treatment that is increasingly forcing him out of the international spotlight.
Venezuela's foreign minister is attending the summit in Chavez's place. He told state television that Chavez decided not to attend on the advice of his doctors.
The decision headed off a potential face-to-face confrontation with President Barack Obama, and also raised questions anew about the effects that Chavez's cancer could have on his political future and his international ambitions.
Chavez has often used such regional summits as a platform to amplify his criticisms of U.S. influence and press for his vision of Latin American integration.