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Host in firing line as regional summit in Los Angeles nears

By SERGIO HELD in Cajica, Colombia | China Daily | Updated: 2022-05-24 09:38

The future of the three-decade-old Summit of the Americas and the influence of the United States in the region are in question as more leaders flag they may skip the June event in Los Angeles amid calls for every country to be included.

"The new world order shows us that the US no longer has the same weight in the region, even though it continues to be one of the main powers," said Luis Rendueles, a Venezuelan political scientist.

Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua have not been invited, while the leaders of at least five nations-Guatemala, Bolivia, Mexico, Honduras and Brazil-are considering skipping the event, and others are calling for full inclusion at the gathering.

"There is still an ideological confrontation between countries with left- and right-wing governments in the region," said Rendueles.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said on May 16 that he would not attend the summit, which will begin on June 6.Honduras threatened not to go unless all the region's countries are invited, and so did Bolivia's President Luis Arce.

Keith Rowley, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and Alberto Fernandez, Argentina's president, have asked the US to ensure that every state in the region is invited.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is considering not going to Los Angeles, although his decision may have as much to do with a presidential election in October.

"It is very probable that Bolsonaro will not attend. He is already campaigning," said Eugenio Aragao, a former justice minister and adviser to former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Bolsonaro's rival.

In Mexico, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador criticized Washington's decision to exclude certain countries from the summit. "The independence and sovereignty of the peoples must be asserted," said Lopez Obrador, who retreated from a threat not to attend the summit, which has been held every four years since 1994.

Own agenda

Despite the reaction, the US government has said Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are unlikely to be present.

Rendueles sees this year's summit as an opportunity for the US government to set its own agenda and "delineate the objectives of regional integration, which will allow it to advance the consolidation of its economic interests and slow the advance of Russia and China in Latin America".

A key US goal is to align regional views on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

"The US administration wants Latin America to have a more proactive stance against Russia, but I think they will not succeed, because Russia is not an issue here in Latin America," Aragao said.

Over the past week, the US has eased some sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, allowing more flights to Cuba and removing a cap on remittances. Chevron, a US oil company, was given the green light to resume some operations in Venezuela.

"It is a game of incentives and threats that the US has been implementing to achieve the liberation of dictatorships in the region and the world for decades. It is not something new," said Rendueles.

As for the summit, no tangible results are expected in the short term. "Whether or not agreements will be reached is irrelevant," said Kimberly Armengol, a political writer and journalist in Mexico.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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