This article appears in the June 17, 2022 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
DISMAL SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS
U.S. Tells the Hemisphere
To Go Down with the Old System
[Print version of this article]
June 12—The world was witness last week to the spectacle in Los Angeles of the Ninth Summit of the Americas, an event that takes place approximately every three years—the last was held in Lima in 2018—hosted this year from June 6–10 by the United States under the heading, “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, Equitable Future for our Hemisphere.”
The backdrop to the Summit is the enormous economic, political and social turmoil occurring globally, as developing sector nations especially struggle to deal with the systemic breakdown of the trans-Atlantic financial system, drastically worsened by the boomerang effects of insane Western sanctions on Russia—hyperinflation; food, fertilizer, and fuel shortages; and impending social upheaval. The threat of worsening food insecurity, hunger, poverty, and drought hangs over the heads of all of the Hemisphere’s governments, which lack the means to respond adequately.
The occasion of the Summit should have been the perfect opportunity for the United States to show real leadership, to step up in a spirit of collaboration and friendship to forge comprehensive emergency and long-term agreements to address the Hemisphere’s deepening problems, bringing forth the best traditions of the American System whose positive foreign policy tradition, as enunciated by its sixth President, John Quincy Adams, is sorely needed. Instead, the Biden Administration first insulted the peoples of the entire region by unilaterally telling them which governments could and could not attend—“undemocratic” Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were excluded—and then for those who did attend, cobbled together an embarrassing hodge-podge of “initiatives” on climate, free trade, and migration, supposedly intended to alleviate economic and social dislocation and lead to prosperity.
In reality, these are just a crass attempt to lock the Hemisphere’s nations into the sinking unipolar world against which many are already rebelling. That these were also presented as an alternative to China’s activities in the region through its Belt and Road Initiative was seen as especially preposterous.
A Global Revolt
The Anglo-American strategy won’t work. The rebellion against the imperial “rules-based” order is well underway in other regions of the world, as some African and Asian nations pursue new alliances and an independent path to development outside the strictures of the decaying financial system. Washington’s arrogance towards the nations of the Western Hemisphere will drive many more of them in the same direction. Twenty Ibero-American and Caribbean nations have already signed on to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and Cuba and Venezuela are also seeking ties with the Eurasian Economic Union, the Russia-led economic bloc closely integrated with the BRI.
The Summit was in fact a full failure for Washington and its Wall Street policies. Numerous heads of state refused to attend, delivering a loud “No!” to a continuation of the policies that have led to a collapsing unipolar world. But what comes next for Ibero-America and the Caribbean? Will they just say “no,” or will they begin to actually start building BRI great projects in their region, inviting the U.S. to work with China in such efforts?
Speaking June 3 at the GLOBESEC 2022 Forum in Bratislava, Slovakia, India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, reflected the growing revolt against imperial dictates when he warned, “Do not think it’s necessary for India to join any axis. India is entitled to its own choices which will be a balance of its values and interests.” India is today one-fifth of the world’s population, he said, and the fifth or sixth largest economy in the world. Thus, “I feel I am entitled to have my own side. I am entitled to weigh my own interests and make my own choices.” In a warning to Europe, he added “the world can’t be Eurocentric anymore. Europe has to grow out of the mindset that its problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems aren’t Europe’s problems.”
From the Western Hemisphere, Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali warned on World Environment Day June 5 that he will not succumb to the demand that combating climate change take precedence over defending the “fundamental needs and wants of human beings. We cannot even speak about climate change if we have people who are hungry, people who don’t have access to water, people who don’t have access to wages and earnings.” President Ali’s words are especially significant given Guyana’s historic role as a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, assuming responsibility for changing the entire global system.
Ali documented in stark terms a global crisis in which one in three people lack access to safe drinking water; three billion people lack basic hand-washing facilities, so essential in the fight against COVID-19; 4.2 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation; 20% of the global population lacks access to adequate housing. Under these conditions, he warned, the “climate change” double standards applied to poor developing nations are unacceptable. Guyana will take a “balanced approach” to climate change, he said, and not sacrifice his nation’s development needs. “We cannot live in a false reality.”
Voices of Africa
Macky Sall, President of Senegal and Chairman of the African Union made a similar point May 27 in his keynote address to the African Union’s Extraordinary Humanitarian Summit, called to address the terrible crises of the means to life in many parts of the continent. Urging his compatriots to tackle the root causes of humanitarian crises, he pointed out that there are 113 million Africans in extreme need of assistance this year, “including 48 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people.”
These were the same concerns Sall also raised with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a four-hour meeting June 3 in Sochi, in which African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki also participated. President Sall, who issued a call during the meeting to lift sanctions against Russia, reported that Putin fully responded to his concerns, particularly his hope for peace that would facilitate the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports to Africa. He also said that Putin had expressed his readiness to ensure shipments of Russian food and fertilizer to Africa.
A Fiasco Foretold
Warnings from the Global South about Western indifference are routinely dismissed by Washington, and thus the Summit of the Americas threatened to be a fiasco even before it began. The Biden Administration’s announcement that it would not invite the “dictatorial” governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, as they didn’t rise to the level of “democratic governance” deemed acceptable by the U.S., sparked a revolt throughout the Hemisphere. The presidents or heads of government of Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Honduras and several Caribbean nations announced they would not attend if the U.S. insisted on excluding the three nations. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) warned that unless the U.S. changed its policy, he would not attend and would send his Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard in his place. He also demanded that Joe Biden personally contact him to let him know whether he intended to change his policy and invite the three outcasts.
The message from the region was almost unanimous: this is a summit of the Americas and all of the Americas should be invited; the host nation doesn’t have the prerogative of restricting the invitation list. The nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), whose concerns and needs are usually ignored by Washington, were irate. Speaking May 5, the ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda in Washington, Sir Ronald Sanders, warned that the 15 CARICOM nations wouldn’t attend, either, unless the U.S. reversed its invitation policy. He also angrily demanded that the U.S. stop referring to the pathetic Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela instead of the duly elected Nicolás Maduro. The Summit of the Americas “is not a meeting of the United States, so it cannot decide who is invited and who is not,” Ambassador Sanders said.
Threats and Arm Twisting
Had every head of state who threatened to boycott the Summit done so, it would have been a colossal failure. As it was, only 23 of 35 Caribbean and Ibero-American heads of state actually showed up, with others sending ministerial delegations to represent them. Fearing disaster, a panicked White House and State Department mobilized to change the minds of some of the leaders who threatened not to attend, while implying they were open to reversing their exclusion policy based on ongoing discussions with governments holding “different points of view.”
Not wanting to further enrage participants, the administration did not invite Juan Guaidó to attend. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who announced that “under no conditions” would he attend the Summit even if invited, because it was only ever intended to be an exclusive gathering, warned that the Biden Administration was engaging in “brutal pressure” and other slick tactics to convince reluctant regional leaders to attend.
Former Sen. Chris Dodd, Biden’s special adviser to the Summit, spoke at length with AMLO to try to change his mind, as the Mexican President’s absence from the Summit would be a big blow. Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Vice President Kamala Harris, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan worked the phones to cajole other regional officials. Dodd also traveled to Brazil, Chile and Argentina, offering those nations’ presidents the chance to meet with Biden personally if they would attend the Summit. Local U.S. ambassadors in those countries served as enforcers.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who dislikes Biden and had indicated he had no interest in attending, changed his mind, as did Chile’s Gabriel Boric. Argentina’s Fernandez didn’t confirm his attendance until June 3, but promised he would go to Los Angeles representing the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC), of which Argentina is president pro tempore. All the nations of Ibero-America and the Caribbean, except Brazil, belong to CELAC.
‘The Summit May Fail’
The Biden administration waited until the very last minute, on the opening day of the Summit, June 6, to officially confirm in a contorted statement that it hadn’t invited Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela due to those nations’ “lack of democratic space and human rights situations.” President López Obrador responded immediately, stating in his morning press conference that day that he would not attend the summit and that Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard would go in his place.
“The Summit may be a failure,” he warned, but that’s due to the U.S, and its “policy of exclusion instead of openness. I’m not going to the Summit because all the countries of the Americas aren’t invited. That would be a continuation of the old interventionist policy of lack of respect for nations and their people.” He also attacked the 60-year-old blockade of Cuba, which he called a flagrant violation of human rights and, because it prevents food and medicine from reaching Cuba, a “form of genocide.”
The same day, former Bolivian President Evo Morales described the Summit as “stillborn … born dead,” due to the exclusion of the three nations.
Also boycotting were the Presidents of Bolivia, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, as well as the heads of government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, and Antigua and Barbuda. Uruguay’s president didn’t attend because he was ill with COVID-19. The absence of the three nations of Central America’s Northern Triangle—El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras—was particularly keenly felt, as they are crucial to the administration’s public relations campaign by which it claims to be tackling the “root causes of migration”—another fraudulent initiative.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan strained to explain that the absences from the Summit didn’t mean anything. Governments didn’t attend for “idiosyncratic reasons,” he insisted, adding that the “substantive work of the Summit has in no way, shape or form been touched or adjusted or reduced by the participation question.”
A Different Type of Summit
The Summit’s inaugural ceremony that was supposed to set a positive tone for the gathering was a grotesque affair—loud rock music, bright strobe lights, and selected ritzy popular singers and dance groups, omitting some of the actually beautiful and meaningful aspects of the culture of the Americas. But this was coherent with what followed: a forgettable speech by Vice President Kamala Harris, after which an enfeebled Joe Biden took to the stage to briefly speak, extolling democracy as “the hallmark of our region” and the “essential ingredient to Americas’ futures.” At several points he misread words on the teleprompter, and of course blamed Vladimir Putin for global inflationary pressures due to his “brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine,” which he claimed was a major factor in the increased poverty that leads to greater migration flows to the U.S.
In his speech to the Summit’s plenary session the following night, Argentine President Alberto Fernández also referenced the impact that the Russia-Ukraine conflict has had on the Americas but echoed French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent call not to humiliate Russia. It is urgent to hold negotiations to end the “war catastrophe,” Fernández said, but “without humiliation or desire for domination, without dehumanizing geopolitics or privileging violence.”
He also pointedly told Biden:
Clearly we would have wanted a different type of summit of the Americas. The silence of those who are absent calls out to us. So that this won’t happen again, I want to establish for the future that being a host of a summit doesn’t give one the right to impose ‘admission rights’ on member nations.
Fernández invited Biden to the next plenary meeting of CELAC and expressed the hope that the Americas can be “fraternally united” through a commitment to ensure that all inhabitants of the region will have access to food, land, and housing.
Prosperity for Whom?
Although Biden bragged of several initiatives the U.S. has put forward regarding Cities Forward, the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership on Climate, one on migration and one on food security involving Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and the U.S., he highlighted the new Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, billed as the “bold” and “ambitious” proposal that will transform the entire hemisphere. How? Because, as he explained it, “it’s grounded on the same core values that my Administration is bringing to our own strong economic recovery.” Economic recovery? Talk of emulating in the rest of the Western Hemisphere the destructive policies the Biden Administration has applied in the U.S. should have been a red flag to anyone listening closely.
The “bold” Partnership for Prosperity is in fact just a warmed-over version for the Americas of the recently announced Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a patchwork of ill-defined policies whose real goal is political—to counter China’s influence in Asia. Like IPEF, this new initiative is long on rhetoric and short on content. One administration official quoted in the Americas Quarterly newsletter June 9, had to admit that the plan is “flexible” and merely “the beginning of a conversation that we want to have.” A ministerial meeting planned for the Fall would work out further details but would only include a select group of “like-minded” countries.
The plan’s five “pillars” are gibberish. One is supposed to reinvigorate regional economic institutions through a revamped Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and its private investment arm, IDB Invest. The emphasis is on “unlocking substantial amounts of private sector financing investment” which the Biden Administration has never had success in raising. Another pillar emphasizes creating “more resilient supply chains,” which simply means reducing dependence on China. Depopulation will be advanced by promoting low technology “clean energy jobs,” decarbonization, and increasing renewables as part of the energy grid. “Sustainable and inclusive trade” will be based on existing free-trade agreements that are to be the foundation of this boondoggle. No new ones will be signed, and no country will be granted more market access to the U.S.
The other major initiative on migration reflected in the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection signed June 10, is fraudulent. This is a non-binding resolution which is intended to serve as the basis for bilateral migration deals the Biden administration hopes to sign with individual countries, based on the concept of “shared responsibility.” That is, with the promise of more U.S. funding, governments that are now struggling under the economic burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and other countries must now act as enforcers, preventing the migrants from leaving their countries to head north to the U.S. The Biden administration is promising to provide more funds to governments to help them pay for more social services, legal protection, and job training for migrants.
Jake Sullivan boasted that all these wonderful new initiatives will be far superior and have a more lasting impact on the lives of the people of the Americas than anything China offers with its “extractive” projects—his term for BRI projects. In remarks to Washington Post columnist Ishaan Tharoor, published June 10, Chile’s former ambassador to China, Jorge Heine, responded to the Summit’s proposals saying, “It all looks very thin.” Today, China is the first or second largest trading partner of most nations in Ibero-America and the Caribbean and is engaged in developing major infrastructure and construction projects across the region. Heine noted,
When U.S. authorities visit Latin America, they often talk about China and why Latin American countries should not deal with China. When Chinese authorities visit, all the talk is about bridges and tunnels and highways and railways and trade.
One vision, Heine added, is clearly “more attractive” than the other. He noted that most governments would prefer the U.S. model for reasons of shared democratic and cultural values:
But the real challenge is development…. When China comes and offers trade and financing, that is welcome. That is the main priority. Latin Americans are not in the business of international power competition.