PICTURED: The presidents of Mexico and Argentina, two men who are considering a boycott of Biden’s Summit of the Americas, meet in 2021. PC: Casa Rosada. CC 2.5. Argentina.
An attempt by the Biden Administration to host the 9th Summit of the Americas is in jeopardy after a refusal to invite Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua has drawn backlash from even some of the U.S.’s closest allies in Latin America.
The White House has less than two weeks to reconcile their desire to “build a sustainable, resilient, and equitable future for our hemisphere,” with their unilateral exclusion of several countries, and the self-determined exclusion of several others.
Among the countries now questioning the ethics of Biden’s decision are Argentina, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Honduras. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also criticized the decision but has decided to attend the summit after careful American prodding. Several Caribbean nations have also said they are considering not sending representatives.
Nevertheless, State Department spokesperson Ned Price commented that they “are confident that there will be robust participation”.
The real issue is Mexico, a regional leader, economic powerhouse, and the first country to speak out against the exclusions. Without them, the U.S. will not be able to make any meaningful agreements on illegal immigration. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said he will make his decision on Friday.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that “CariCom” or the Caribbean Community, will almost all attend the summit, missing only St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
However Antigua and Barbados’ Ambassador to the US said on Thursday they will not attend if Juan Guaido, a man who the U.S. recognize as the so-called Interim-President of Venezuela and who it has been said could attend the summit, is present “physically or virtually”.
“The Summit of the Americas is not a meeting of the United States, so it cannot decide who is invited and who is not,” said the Ambassador, noting that it is a summit of all the heads of state of the Western Hemisphere.
Failure to launch
“U.S. leadership in the Summit process underscores our deep and historical commitment to the people of the Western Hemisphere,” said the White House on its announcement back in January. To that end, allegedly State Department officials are seeking for ways for “how to best incorporate the voices of the Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan people into the summit process,” said an anonymous official to the LA Times.
From the perspective of belief in the key application of U.S. leadership in the region, much of the Western Hemisphere has long been neglected. LA Times spoke with several D.C. think tanks who feel U.S. engagement has been lacking.
Former-President Obama improved relations with Cuba, only for Donald Trump to suffocate them again. Pressure was unrelenting and ineffective, while the attempt to back Juan Guaido in his overthrow of the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who was not invited to the June summit, turned a country teetering on economic disaster head-long into collapse, martial law, and starvation just in time for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similarly, relations with Bolsonaro during the Trump Administration were warm, but have now been damaged by Biden, who has also not sought to return to his former-boss’ policy in Cuba.
All tolled, the Biden White House has taken the worst of both presidencies in the eyes of Latin America, and are not seen as “a shining example of success,” Earl Anthony Wayne, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and Argentina, told the Times.
All this has resulted in a summit of critical importance for the Biden Administration’s policy in the Western Hemisphere, but one which may collapse before it even starts.
“From Mexico through Argentina, the United States practiced a policy of backing – sometimes even installing – politically violent, even genocidal dictators and local elites who supported Washington’s anti-communist policies, both before and during the Cold War,” writes Dr. Aileen Teague an Assistant Professor in of International Affairs at Texas A&M, and fellow at the Quincy Institute, a Washington-based think tank for responsible statecraft.
“The United States has a far longer track record of supporting human rights violators than of advocating for the masses whose rights were violated. With U.S. attention hyper-focused on its own priorities – namely migration, drug trafficking, and China – its regional partners are less inclined to work with a northern giant they see as selfish, arrogant, and hubristic,” she writes.