A failure, a failure, a disappointment: This is just some ways that political analysts and Latin American and Caribbean leaders are describing the Summit of the Americas, organized by US President Joe Biden in Los Angeles.
Even before the summit begins this week, the main topic of conversation is not how regional leaders will tackle key common challenges, such as migrationclimate change, economic disparities and cooperation.
Nor is it about how the United States will take advantage of the unique opportunity to get its relationship with Latin America back, after four years. many years forgotten under former President Donald Trump.
Instead, even before it began, what broke the only place where the heads of state of all nations in the Americas could sit face-to-face was Biden’s decision to exclude. presidents of three countries: Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela.
It is not a matter of favoring the respective leaders of those countries, Daniel Ortega, Miguel Diaz Canel and Nicolas Maduro. Most countries in the region consider them authoritarian and undemocratic, as does Washington.
But by unilaterally excluding the three countries as part of the Americas, arguing that they did not meet the necessary democratic requirements, the White House turned the clock back to the pre-Obama era.
“It was a mistake and we will say so at the summit,” said the Chilean President Gabriel Boric when he arrived in Los Angeles.
“No one can save him or her alone. We must join forces to achieve better development. We reserve the right to say that exclusion if not the way. Historically it has never achieved results. And when the US tries to exclude certain countries, it only ends up serving to consolidate [leaders] action at home. “
President of Mexico Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador warned Biden that he would boycott the summit if he ruled out three countries, prompting the White House to ask former Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd to visit the region to try to contain the festering crisis.
But the Mexican leader made good on his threat and stayed home, as did the representatives of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Bolivia and several Caribbean countries.
Such rejection underscores how much US influence has waned in its region.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who is attending the summit in his place of president, said the decision not to invite Cuba set the summit back a decade. “Freezing countries was a serious mistake,” Ebrard said.
In an effort to ensure that the leader of Latin America’s largest democracy would also not be at home, the White House has cut a deal with the President of Brazil. Jair Bolsonaroa staunch ally of former President Trump.
Biden agrees hold bilateral negotiations with his Brazilian counterpart, but according to the White House, he declined requests not to bring up thorny issues, such as the Amazon and Bolsonaro attacks against the country’s Supreme Court and Electoral Court.
Just before leaving for Los Angeles, Bolsonaro hit back, saying he still doesn’t believe Biden didn’t steal the 2020 presidential election from Trump – a provocation that does not bode well for discussions between the leaders of the two largest economies in the Americas.
A question about priorities
The summit also raises questions: how is Biden expected to manage an unprecedented migration crisis in the Americas given Venezuela, a country from which there is more six million people ran away, not part of the conversation?
So are Cuba and Nicaragua, home to tens of thousands of migrants heading mainly to the US.
It all seems to go back to the question of priorities, and the fact that for decades Latin America has not been near the top of the list for the US.
Former Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski once commented on a conversation he said he had with Trump. “He told me that Latin America is like a dog that sleeps well and doesn’t need to be woken,” says Kuczynski.
Recent events show that such a view is not only short-sighted but also counterproductive to US strategic interests.
China is now number one trading partner for South America’s largest economies – Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru – producing the most copper, lithium, soybeans and corn in the world. And while China’s influence has also grown steadily in Central America, Washington’s once unchallenged leadership in its former “backyard” is said to have dropped to an all-time low. .
The Summit of the Americas, which has taken place every three years since 1994 (only delayed by the coronavirus pandemic), is an important event that once drew much excitement. “I promise you a new chapter in our relationship, a partnership of equals,” then-US President Barack Obama told his colleagues at the fifth summit in Washington. April 2009, shortly after he took office.
At the time, Cuba was still excluded, but at the time Obama Attending his last summit, he sat at the table with Raul Castro of Cuba.
Former Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz said in this year’s edition: “The timing is unlucky. “It is a pity that US midterm elections and pressure from conservatives in Florida and New Jersey is determining who can and cannot attend this summit.”
Biden and other regional leaders may have used the forum to hold Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela accountable for human rights and vote. And they might as well have been trying to achieve common goals.
Finally, the Ninth Summit of the Americas can be remembered as a wasted opportunity at a crucial time.