Tuesday, September 27

The Summit of the Americas: scene of encounters and ‘disagreements’ in the region


The ninth edition has been marked by the exclusion of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela

Joe Biden at the opening ceremony of the IX Summit of the Americas.EFE
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The coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine have highlighted the strong connections of globalization and the importance of international organizations and diplomacy in solving new global challenges or old entrenched problems. If the World Health Organization (WHO) took a step forward with the appearance of Covid-19 or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) rose from its ashes with the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Summit of the Americas that these days is being held in Los Angeles is a scene of encounters and ‘disagreements’ in a region in full transformation, ‘condemned’ to understand each other in the face of the continuous quarrels between North and South and with a host – the US president, Joe Biden – who it has not yet fully unfolded the lines of its foreign policy.

What is the Summit of the Americas and how did it come about?

Broadly speaking, it is a meeting of all the leaders of the American continent in which the burning issues in the region are discussed. Using an official definition and according to the website of the Summits secretariat, “are regular meetings that bring together the Heads of State and Government democratically elected of the Americas to discuss and make decisions on issues of relevance to the region.” US President Bill Clinton convened the first, in 1994 and in Miami, with the aim of “promoting economic growth and prosperity in all of the Americas.” “, as the US State Department recalls. The Summit was born with a commercial purpose but the diplomatic part has been prevailing. Proof of this are the words of the inaugural speech by the host Joe Biden: “At a time when democracies are under assault in the world, Let’s unite again.” In addition to everything that has surrounded the Summit in the days prior to its organization, since this edition has been marked by back and forth about the invitations, ultimately resulting in the exclusion of the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Precisely because of this lack of democratic guarantees. Currently, civil society, the private sector and the media are also part of these meetings.

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How many Summits have been held?

The current one is the ninth edition and return to US territory. It’s taking place this week in Los Angeles and, as mentioned, the first one was in Miami. Later, with an approximate periodicity of three years, they have been followed by that of Santiago de Chile (Chile, 1998), Quebec (Canada, 2001), Mar del Plata (Argentina, 2005); Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago, 2009), Cartagena (Colombia, 2012), Panama City (Panam, 2015) and Lima (Per, 2018). There were two extraordinary Summits in Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia, 1996) and Monterrey (Nuevo León, Mexico, 2004).

Why in Los Angeles (California)?

For the connection of the metropolis with the rest of the nations of the region. An argument that the US State Department explains with data: “More than 224 languages ​​are spoken in the city, and it has a population that represents 140 countries”.

Is the Summit of the Americas part of an international organization?

No, but it is supported by more than a dozen of them. For example, the secretariat of the Summit of the Americas depends on the Organization of American States (OAS) and is in charge of guaranteeing the entire process of the Summits.

What is the axis of the current Summit?

The motto is ‘Building a sustainable, resilient and equitable future’, based on the concerns expressed by all the actors involved in the work process of the Summit -citizens, institutions and governments-. A phrase based on the pandemic and “the cracks it has exposed”.

Why is it also a scenario of ‘disagreements’?

Although the Summit of the Americas is intended to be a setting for face-to-face meetings of all the actors in the region on political, economic and social issues, it also highlights protests, discussions between leaders or rudeness. Let us mention concrete examples. The Republican Donald Trump did not attend the 2018, which took place in Lima (Per). The reason? “The president will remain in the United States to oversee the American response to Syria and oversee developments around the world,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said at the time. She was referring to an alleged chemical attack in the city of Duma in connection with the diplomatic crisis opened by an alleged chemical attack in Duma on Saturday. The foreign policy positions of the former president always generated many expectations. That is why his absence was significant and that is why all eyes are now on Biden and his relations with Latin America – always called the “backyard” of the United States. Regarding civil society, in this ninth Summit of the Americas, the accent is placed on migration. In addition to the protests at the gates of the Los Angeles celebration, a migrant caravan of some 15,000 people is heading towards the US-Mexico border.

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Why has the ninth edition generated so much expectation?

Before the host’s invitations were known, all kinds of statements were made about the possible exclusion of Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela due to the lack of democratic guarantees in the three nations and the positions that the rest of the countries supposedly invited at that time they took about it. The Joe Biden Administration confirmed the suspicions and Daniel Ortega, Miguel Díaz-Canel and Nicolás Maduro will not be in Los Angeles. The main person in charge of the US Department of State for Latin America, Brian Nichols, explained the decision: in Venezuela “there is a lack of freedom” and “political prisoners”, a situation that is contrary to the “fundamental documents of the Summit of the Americas”, reported Eph. This triggered other leaders, as they had already announced, to give up going. They are the Mexican president, Andrs Manuel López Obrador; the Bolivian, Luis Arce; and the Honduran, Xiomara Castro. Guatemalan Alejandro Giammattei (due to scheduling problems) and Uruguayan Luis Lacalle Pou (positive for coronavirus) will also be absent. Only the Argentine president, Alberto Fernndez, appointed by Maduro as the “voice” of Venezuela, will do so.

Is it the only meeting that brings together the American nations?

The Summit of the Americas is characterized by being one of the few that encompasses all nations from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. However, the list of entities, organizations or discussion groups throughout the American continent is long. Spain is included in the Ibero-American Summit, not to be confused with the Summit of the Americas. After this clarification that concerns us, we can mention the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), of which Alberto Fernndez is president ‘pro tempore’; the Lima Group and the Puebla Group, both of which emerged as a result of the Venezuelan crisis; the Organization of American States (OAS), perhaps the most powerful and with Luis Almagro at its head; Union of South American Nations (Unasur), Common Market of the South (Mercosur)… But delving into each one of them is the mission of another article.

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