A fiasco, a flop, a disappointment: These are simply 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 earlier than the summit started this week, the principle topic of dialog was not how regional leaders would deal with key frequent challenges, reminiscent of migration, local weather change, and financial disparity and cooperation.
Nor was it about how the USA would reap the benefits of a singular alternative to place its relationship with Latin America again on monitor, after 4 years of neglect underneath former President Donald Trump.
As an alternative, even earlier than it started, what fractured the one venue during which the heads of all of the international locations within the Americas can sit down nose to nose was Biden’s choice to exclude the presidents of three nations: Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela.
It isn’t a difficulty of help for these international locations’ respective leaders, Daniel Ortega, Miguel Diaz Canel, and Nicolas Maduro. Most international locations within the area take into account them authoritarian and undemocratic, as does Washington.
However by unilaterally excluding three nations which are a part of the Americas, arguing that they don’t meet the required democratic necessities, the White Home has turned the clock again to the pre-Obama period.
“It was a mistake and we’ll say so on the summit,” stated Chile’s President Gabriel Boric as he arrived in Los Angeles.
“Nobody can save him or herself alone. We’ve got to hitch forces to realize higher growth. We’ve got a proper to say that exclusion if not the best way. Traditionally it has by no means achieved outcomes. And when the USA makes an attempt to exclude sure international locations, finally it solely serves to strengthen their [leaders] actions at residence.”
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had warned Biden that he would boycott the summit if he excluded the three international locations, prompting pleas from the White Home, which despatched former Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd to the area to attempt to include the looming disaster.
However the Mexican chief made good on his menace and stayed residence, as have representatives of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Bolivia and several other Caribbean nations.
Such a snub underscores simply how a lot US affect has waned in its personal area.
Mexico’s International Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who’s attending the summit in his president’s place, stated the choice to not invite Cuba has set the summit again a decade. “It’s a severe error to freeze out international locations,” Ebrard stated.
In a bid to make sure that the chief of Latin America’s largest democracy would additionally not keep residence, the White Home reduce a take care of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, a staunch ally of former President Trump.
Biden agreed to hold bilateral talks together with his Brazilian counterpart, however in accordance with the White Home, he refused a request to not carry up thorny points, such because the Amazon and Bolsonaro’s attacks in opposition to the nation’s Supreme Court docket and Electoral Tribunal.
Simply earlier than leaving for Los Angeles, Bolsonaro shot again, saying that he was nonetheless not satisfied that Biden has not stolen the 2020 presidential election from Trump – a provocation that doesn’t bode properly for discussions between the leaders of the 2 largest economies within the Americas.
A query of priorities
The summit additionally begs the query: how does Biden anticipate to handle an unprecedented migration disaster within the Americas when Venezuela, a rustic from which greater than six million people have fled, will not be a part of the dialog?
Neither are Cuba and Nicaragua, residence to tens of hundreds of migrants who’re heading principally to the US.
All of it appears to return to the query of priorities, and the truth that for many years Latin America has not been close to the highest of the checklist for the US.
Former Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski as soon as commented on a dialog he stated he had with Trump. “He instructed me that Latin America was like a great sleeping canine, and that there was no have to wake it up,” stated Kuczynski.
Current occasions recommend that such a view will not be solely shortsighted, however counter-productive 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 a lot of the world’s copper, lithium, soy and corn. And whereas China’s affect grows steadily in Central America as properly, Washington’s once-unchallenged management in its former “yard” has arguably descended to historic lows.
The Summit of the Americas, which has taken place each three years since 1994 (delayed solely by the coronavirus pandemic), is a key occasion that after drew a lot pleasure. “I promise you a brand new chapter in our relationships, a partnership of equals,” then-US President Barack Obama instructed his friends on the fifth summit in April of 2009, shortly after he had taken workplace.
On the time Cuba was nonetheless excluded, however by the point Obama attended his final summit, he was sitting on the identical desk with Cuba’s Raul Castro.
“The timing has been unlucky,” stated former Chilean International Minister Heraldo Munoz of this yr’s version. “It’s a pity that the US midterm elections and strain from conservatives in Florida and New Jersey are figuring out who can and can’t attend this summit.”
Biden and different regional leaders may have used the discussion board to carry Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela accountable on human rights and elections. And so they may even have tried to make headway on shared targets.
Ultimately, the ninth Summit of the Americas could also be remembered as a squandered alternative at a important time.