The Summit of the Americas is shaping up to be a diplomatic mistake that threatens to erode the regional ties the United States had hoped to restore in the Western Hemisphere, analysts and experts said ahead of the conference to be held this week.
“The Summit of the Americas has become the Friends of Washington Summit. It represents an embarrassing failure for the United States because so many countries are not sending their leaders or are sending less government representation,” said John Kirk, a professor of Latin American studies at Dalhousie University in Canada, told China Daily.
The ninth Summit of the Americas, a triennial gathering of national leaders from the Western Hemisphere, will be held Monday through Friday in Los Angeles. The event marks the first time the forum will be held in the United States since its inaugural session in 1994.
Under the theme “Building a Sustainable, Resilient and Equitable Future in the Western Hemisphere”, the summit aims to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and “threats to democracy”, among others, said the US State Department. on its website.
The White House also hoped to mend Washington’s ties with Latin American countries and reassert its leadership in the region.
However, controversy surrounded the international conference, particularly due to the US decision to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the summit, which angered several Latin American countries.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would skip the event unless all countries in the Americas could attend.
The leaders of Bolivia, Honduras, Guatemala and several Caribbean states also hinted that they would not participate or would send discreet delegations.
This summit offers the United States the opportunity to strengthen its regional support at a time when its relations with Russia and China are strained. However, “the exact opposite has happened” and “the United States seems isolated in its own hemisphere,” Kirk said.
“If the idea is to have a regional meeting of all the countries in the region, then that is what should happen. It is wrong to avoid the presence of countries with which you do not agree – a view shared by most Latin American countries. The end result is a diplomatic nightmare for the Biden administration,” Kirk said.
Robin Lauren Derby, a history professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told China Daily that the Mexican president’s decision not to attend is “a huge slap in the face to the United States” as the country has become a major trading partner of the United States under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Mexico’s absence will clearly limit the influence of the summit because immigration is a very important concern for the United States and it is no longer just Mexican and Central American migrants who are now arriving at the US-Mexico border – there has a large number of Haitians, Brazilians and Cubans as well, for example,” said Derby.
The number of migrants attempting to cross the US-Mexico border has increased again in recent months. The Biden administration has identified the issue as a central item on the meeting’s agenda.
In addition to migrants, important issues related to gang violence, money laundering and human trafficking also need to be addressed at the conference, Derby said.
Many Latin American countries agree with the US pro-democracy stance, “but even these countries feel that the way the United States operates in the region is not as respectful of countries’ sovereignty. Latin America as they would like,” said Gerardo Munck, professor of political science and international relations at the University of Southern California.
Excluding the leaders of certain countries from participation is not necessarily the best way to support democratic principles, Munck said.
Instead, the United States could invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, “and then have a discussion with all the countries present about what could be done to better defend democracy in the hemisphere”, he said. he told China Daily,
Abe Lowenthal, professor emeritus of international relations at the University of Southern California, said in a statement: “What happens at the summit will depend on the respective approaches of the US government and those of Latin American and Caribbean countries. regarding opportunities as conclave gifts.