From June 8, 2022
Ninth Summit of the Americas to be Marked by Absences
New York. On the second day of the Summit of the Americas, the host government finally presented a list of participants which reveals that 23 heads of state are expected to be present when President Joe Biden leads the opening ceremony this Wednesday in Los Angeles, meanwhile Cuba continues to be among the countries most present despite its absence.
The opening ceremony is scheduled for this [Wednesday] afternoon, which will kick off the program of plenary sessions and meetings between the invited heads of state or their representatives, which will continue until Friday. At the same time, during these first two days, various representatives of civil society, the business sector and young people met in official parallel forums, and will present their recommendations to the summit later this week.
On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris announced at the summit that more than $1.9 billion in new private sector commitments have been secured for the effort she launched in July of last year to generate economic opportunities in northern Central America – Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – as part of the Biden administration’s strategy to address the “root causes” of migration. With this, total commitments now total more than $3.2 billion.
The participation or non-participation of various heads of state and government tarnishes this effort. It is known that the presidents of just the three Central American countries in which Harris is promoting her initiative will not be present. President Xiomara Castro of Honduras and Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala have already indicated that they will not be in Los Angeles. El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele does not appear on the official list, only his foreign minister.
The other countries that will not be represented by their leaders, but will send their foreign ministers or other official representatives are Mexico, Bolivia, Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis. At least three of them, along with Honduras, cited the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua as the main reason for not sending their leaders.
For the second day, and as is believed to be the case throughout the week, Cuba was present at the summit despite its official absence.
On Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols denounced on Twitter that “we condemn the actions of the government of Cuba in denying seven participants from Cuban civil society to attend the summit. We will not invite Cuba’s non-democratic actors but believe it is vital that non-governmental representatives” from the island participate.
But Nichols failed to mention that his own State Department actually denied visas to a delegation of 23 Cubans who had been invited to participate in the People’s Summit, the alternative event that begins Wednesday in parallel with the official summit with a broad participation of progressive organizations and movements from throughout the hemisphere (https://peoplessummit2022.org).
The State Department insisted that it is not true that the visas were denied, but that it is a result of “very limited circumstances” at the embassy in Havana and that the requests had to be made at an embassy or consulate outside Cuba.
On the other hand, Nichols also announced that he met with the island’s artist Yotuel at the summit, and asserted that the U.S. supports those Cubans who are defending “patria y vida” (homeland and life).
U.S. officials did not respond to statements by several participants, who even before arriving echoed Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s position not to exclude Cuba among other countries, including Chilean President Gabriel Boric –a position he reiterated Monday during his visit to Canada before traveling to Los Angeles– and his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernandez, among others.
Some U.S. politicians continued to attack leaders who criticized the U.S. government for not inviting Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
After his Cuban-American colleague, Senator Robert Menendez, condemned Lopez Obrador’s decision not to personally attend the summit, Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted on Tuesday that “I am glad to know that the Mexican president who has handed over entire regions of his country to drug cartels, and who is an apologist for a tyranny in Cuba, a murderous dictator in Nicaragua and a drug trafficker in Venezuela, will not be in the United States this week.”
In the initial activities, the White House on Tuesday stressed that “promoting democratic values and good governance” has been a cornerstone of the hemispheric summits, and that in this ninth edition it will seek to promote its so-called “presidential initiative for democratic renewal”, under which it reported that the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have invested more than 477 million dollars to support democracy, human rights and the fight against corruption in the Western Hemisphere.
Other official parallel events are also held, or with the participation of some of the government representatives. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Vice President Harris and other senior officials also participated in academic and think-tank forums held in conjunction with the summit.
Speaking on press freedom at an event on the sidelines of the summit, Blinken said that one of the challenges in the region is the safety of journalists. He stressed that “at least 17 journalists have been murdered in the hemisphere this year, including Yesenia Mollinedo and Sheila Johana García, the director and a reporter for the El Veraz website in (Veracruz), Mexico, who were shot on May 9. No region in the world is more dangerous for journalists.
“In Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the simple act of investigative journalism is a crime,” he added.
Meanwhile, the “thousands” of participants in the parallel activities as well as in the official events of the summit flood downtown Los Angeles. Among them, according to the official list of participants, will be the secretaries general of the UN and the OAS, representatives of several multilateral and regional organizations (Inter-American Bank, Pan American Health Organization, etc.) and a list of “observer delegations” that includes the European Union, Caricom and several countries from other regions of the world.
Summit of the Americas Kicks Off Today with Great Risk of Failure
From June 6th, 2022
New York. The host of the Summit of the Americas is caught between Latin America and Miami, and on the eve of the start of the meeting scheduled to begin today until May 10 in Los Angeles, what was presented by Joe Biden’s administration as a celebration of its “new relationship” with the hemisphere is now at risk of being a possible embarrassing failure for a president in urgent need of triumphs.
When President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on May 10 that he would not personally participate in the summit if countries from the hemisphere were excluded from the guest list, with particular reference to Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua – a position later endorsed by Bolivia, Honduras and several of the 15 Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries – he forced Joe Biden’s administration to make explicit what it sought to leave half-blurred: a choice between the Americas or Miami.
This first summit held in the United States since the inaugural event in Miami in 1994, was still uncertain 24 hours before its start and it is precisely the ghosts of Miami that could derail the meeting; the powerful conservative sectors of that epicenter of Latin American counter-revolutionary forces and their U.S. allies who oppose the inclusion of Cuba and Venezuela in these summits.
For now, Biden and his strategists are choosing to privilege the relationship with the capital of the Latin American right, inexplicably ignoring what President Barack Obama – with Biden as Vice President – finally understood a few years ago: U.S. policy toward Cuba was damaging Washington’s relationship with almost the entire hemisphere.
Senator Marco Rubio, one of the leading voices of power in Miami, rejected López Obrador dictating what the United States should do at his hemispheric party. At a Senate hearing on May 26, he stated, “I don’t think the United States of America should be bullied or pressured about who to invite to a summit that we are hosting. If he doesn’t want to come, let him not come… And if people who want dictators to come decide to boycott, then we will know who the real friends are in the region…”
According to experts, diplomats and some politicians, the biggest problem is not in Havana, Caracas or Managua, but in a Washington that apparently has not understood the changes in Latin America and that despite Biden’s proclamation that “America is back,” it no longer has the same influence and power as in the last century.
In fact, the White House claims that the objective of U.S. policy at this summit is to promote “the vision of a secure, middle class, democratic region as being fundamentally in the national security interest of the United States.” Moreover, it was stated that the economic agenda it will promote is one that “builds on free trade agreements in the hemisphere” and “address issues of equity.” In other words, the same script, albeit watered down, premiered at the first summit in Miami in 1994.
Christopher Sabatini, an expert on the inter-American relationship and long-time promoter of the importance of these summits, wrote in Foreign Policy that without a change in Washington’s posture, this summit could be perceived as “the tomb of U.S. influence in the region.”
Dan Restrepo, who was President Barack Obama’s assistant for Western Hemisphere affairs and in charge of his participation in two summits, wrote in an article in the Los Angeles Times, that the Summit of the Americas has failed to deliver results since its inception, and although it was originally intended as “a vehicle to promote U.S. interests in the Americas” it is now “a fatally flawed forum that does not serve its purpose…”, and advises that this should be its last session.
Historian Miguel Tinker Salas, professor at Pomona College, and contributor to La Jornada, pointed out in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that López Obrador’s position showed a fracture in U.S. hegemony, which Washington enjoyed when it inaugurated the summits in 1994, but that “now it is another Latin America, and it does not understand that. The United States is no longer the empire that makes or breaks” things in the hemisphere.
It is worth remembering that the Summit of the Americas was born out of the so-called “Washington consensus” that proposed a hemisphere of “free market democracies” linked by free trade agreements that would culminate in a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). Mexico was the model to follow with NAFTA.
A decade later we heard “FTAA, FTAA, To hell with it!,” the famous slogan launched by then President Hugo Chavez at the alternative social forum to the summit in Mar de la Plata in 2005. With shovel in hand, he declared that he came to the summit together with hemispheric social organizations and progressive South American governments “to bury the FTAA.” This marked the end of that neoliberal dream expressed in the Washington Consensus (See Manuel Pérez Rocha: https://www.jornada.com.mx/notas/2022/05/23/politica/cumbre-de-las-americas-nunca-mas-un-alca/ ).
Since then, changes in several countries of the hemisphere -including coup attempts and right-wing conquests in the south, center and even in the United States- to new progressive anti-neoliberal political dynamics continue to transform the continent.
Much of this will come to light in the coming days in Los Angeles.