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Summit of the Americas:
A squandered opportunity at
critical time

InternationalSummit of the Americas:A squandered opportunity atcritical time

by Lucia Newman
9 June 2022 (ALJAZEERA)
A fiasco, a flop, a disappointment:
These are just some of the ways that
political analysts and Latin American and
Caribbean leaders are describing the
Summit of the Americas, which is being
hosted by US President Joe Biden in Los
Angeles.
Even before the summit began this
week, the main subject of conversation was
not how regional leaders would tackle key
common challenges, such as migration,
climate change, and economic disparity
and cooperation.
Nor was it about how the United States
would take advantage of a unique
opportunity to put its relationship with Latin
America back on track, after four years of
neglect under former President Donald
Trump.
Instead, even before it began, what
fractured the only venue in which the heads
of all the countries in the Americas can sit
down face to face was Biden’s decision
to exclude the presidents of three nations:
Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela.
It is not an issue of support for those
countries’ respective leaders, Daniel
Ortega, Miguel Diaz Canel, and Nicolas
Maduro. Most countries in the region
Summit of the Americas:
A squandered opportunity at
critical time
consider them authoritarian and
undemocratic, as does Washington.
But by unilaterally excluding three nations
that are part of the Americas, arguing that
they do not meet the necessary democratic
requirements, the White House has turned
the clock back to the pre-Obama era.
“It was a mistake and we will say so at
the summit,” said Chile’s President Gabriel
Boric as he arrived in Los Angeles.
“No one can save him or herself alone.
We have to join forces to achieve better
development. We have a right to say that
exclusion if not the way. Historically it has
never achieved results. And when the
United States attempts to exclude certain
countries, ultimately it only serves to
reinforce their [leaders] actions at home.”
A boycott
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel
Lopez Obrador had warned Biden that he
would boycott the summit if he excluded
the three countries, prompting pleas from
the White House, which sent former
Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd to
the region to try to contain the looming
crisis.
But the Mexican leader made good on
his threat and stayed home, as have
representatives of Honduras, Guatemala,
El Salvador, Bolivia and several Caribbean
nations.
Such a snub underscores just how much
US influence has waned in its own region.
Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo
Ebrard, who is attending the summit in his
president’s place, said the decision to not
invite Cuba has set the summit back a
decade. “It is a serious error to freeze out
countries,” Ebrard said.
In a bid to ensure that the leader of Latin
America’s largest democracy would also
not stay home, the White House cut a deal
with Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, a
staunch ally of former President Trump.
Biden agreed to hold bilateral talks with
his Brazilian counterpart, but according to
the White House, he refused a request to
not bring up thorny issues, such as the
Amazon and Bolsonaro’s attacks against
the country’s Supreme Court and Electoral
Tribunal.
Just before leaving for Los Angeles,
Bolsonaro shot back, saying that he was
still not convinced that Biden has not stolen
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 of priorities
The summit also begs the question: how
does Biden expect to manage an
unprecedented migration crisis in the
Americas when Venezuela, a country from
which more than six million people have
fled, is not part of the conversation?
Neither are Cuba and Nicaragua, home
to tens of thousands of migrants who
are heading mostly 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 was like a
good sleeping dog, and that there was no
need to wake it up,” said Kuczynski.
Recent events suggest that such a view
is not only shortsighted, but counterproductive
for US strategic interests.China
is now the number one trading partner for
South America’s largest economies –
Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru – which
produce much of the world’s copper,
lithium, soy and corn. And while China’s
influence grows steadily in Central America
as well, Washington’s once-unchallenged
leadership in its former “backyard” has
arguably descended to historic lows.
The Summit of the Americas, which has
taken place every three years since 1994
(delayed only by the coronavirus
pandemic), is a key event that once drew
much excitement. “I promise you
Americas may be remembered as a
squandered opportunity at a critical time.
First published by Aljazeera

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