Follow Us:

The summit of discontent of the Americas

The 9th Summit of the Americas began in Los Angeles on Monday and will continue till Friday. This is the second time the United States is hosting the summit since its inaugural event in 1994.

Statesman News Service |

The 9th Summit of the Americas began in Los Angeles on Monday and will continue till Friday. This is the second time the United States is hosting the summit since its inaugural event in 1994. Following the years of the Donald Trump presidency, during which relations between the US and its neighbours became deeply strained, the incumbent administration of President Joe Biden would like this summit to be remembered as one of unity, one at which the countries of the region once again rally around the US’ leadership to jointly face common challenges. 

But the conditions point to a very different outcome, not to a summit of unity, but to a summit of discontent, with lasting impacts on US influence in the region. Three US decisions are responsible for this. First, the US has chosen to turn the summit into a platform from which to lecture other countries, rather than one for frank dialogue among partners. 

Nothing illustrates this better than the Biden administration’s decision to not invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to the summit on the fabricated pretext that attendees must meet US standards of democracy. 

Most countries of the region have criticized the Biden administration’s decision as a reassertion not of US leadership but of US arrogance, which would take the region in the wrong direction, with many saying that Biden’s predecessors invited Cuba to the summits in 2015 and 2018. 

Notably, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, leader of the fourth-largest economy in the Americas, conditioned his attendance on all countries of the region being invited to the summit. 

Following the US’ intransigence on the issue, he announced that he will not attend the summit. The leaders of Bolivia, Guatemala, Honduras, St. Vincent and Grenada have followed in Lopez Obrador’s footsteps. 

The leaders of the other regional countries such as Argentina and Brazil are attending the summit, but only after the US dispatched its envoys to persuade them to do so. And most Caribbean states have said they will use the summit as an opportunity to criticize the US. 

Second, the US has failed to realise the hypocrisy of its actions, obsessed as it is with other countries’ problems while failing to see its own. 

Recent polls show an increasing number of US citizens questioning the very institution of democracy, especially because of the attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election result. For example, a National Public Radio/Ipsos poll conducted a year after the riots in the US Capitol in January 2021 showed that about 64 per cent of US citizens believe the democracy in the US is in crisis and at the risk of failing. In another poll-by, by the University of Massachusetts in December 2021-33 per cent of the respondents said that Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election was probably or definitely illegitimate. The people of the Americas have thus been compelled to believe that the so-called bastion of democracy is in disarray. 

Moreover, the very Inter-American Democratic Charter the US has used to criticize the conditions in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua state that democracy is more than about elections, and also depends on advances in other areas, such as poverty alleviation and the elimination of racial discrimination.