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Biden's Summit of the Americas an exercise in futility

By Wilson Barroso Diaz | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-06-14 14:47

US President Joe Biden speaks during the inaugural ceremony at the ninth Summit of the Americas, in Los Angeles, California, on June 8, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

If the Seventh Summit of the Americas held in Panama in 2015 was notable for Cuba's first-ever attendance, the one held this month in Los Angeles will go down in history as a summit of exclusions and boycotts. In the time of the seventh summit, there was a constructive environment rarely seen in the region. The reason for summit's success was governments geographically close but politically distant sought to iron out old conflicts that had prevailed since the Cold War.

The aim of the summit was originally to unite all the countries of the continent in action, but how is it possible to unite all the countries when some are not present? By confirming the non-attendance of some Latin American leaders, we can safely say the Summit of the Americas has been a summit of failure.

The American continent has problems that must be solved together. For the United States, the problem of migration is the most urgent, since it believes the people who cross its border from Mexico directly affects its own national security. The volume of undocumented migrants arriving at the border has outstripped previous years. The United States has intercepted undocumented migrants at the border 221,000 times, an increase of 33 percent from February.

But the problem of irregular migration is not a problem that should be solved only by Latin America. The US should also assume responsibility for failed policies towards the region. There have been many years of political destabilization in the region thanks to US-masterminded coups and military interventions, contributing to impoverishment and unemployment through the appropriation of resources or the imposition of economic and trade sanctions. However, the migration policies applied to the region are preferential for some, such as Cubans who are basically allowed to enter through the Mexican border.

Meanwhile at the US embassy in Havana, the 20,000 annual visas agreed upon through negotiations to guarantee regular, safe and orderly migration are not processed. Many of the countries in the region have decided not to wait for the support of their neighbor to the north. For many countries in the region, the fact that aid to Ukraine has been fast-tracked while development aid to Central America languishes is a sign of the US' priorities.

The exclusion of countries will not provide a solution to these problems. Mexico and Argentina have vocalized the position of many countries in the region by refusing to send their heads of state. Twenty countries have expressed their opposition to the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

No one has the right to exclude other countries due to political differences. This has seriously affected the negotiations between presidents, prime ministers and other authorities that should be present. Most of the countries acknowledge the OAS system and the summits are futile — not only due to the exclusions at this summit, but because the OAS has become a surveillance instrument of the United States towards Latin America.

One of the examples is the pandemic situation. As Mexico's foreign minister has said, the OAS has made no effort in this field. Instead, the summit has become an opportunity to travel and engage in political demagoguery. For this reason, the region is advocating the reform or replacement of this organization. Mexico has offered direct and practical proposals to the United States; however, it remains to be seen if those proposals will be considered.

The "Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection", which seeks to coordinate efforts to stop migratory flows, has been clouded by these notable absences. What could have been an opportunity to unite all countries and promote clear and direct improvements in the quality of life of their populations has been lost.

However, hopes for the future have not been completely dashed. There remains the possibility of Biden being invited to the CELAC summit, which could present a far more equitable vehicle for dialogue and regional integration — as it would require the US to listen to all members instead of just the ones it supports politically.

Wilson Barroso Diaz is a PhD student in Diplomacy and Foreign Relations from the Renmin University of China.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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