The Summit of the Americas concluded last week in Los Angeles, highlighting the hypocrisy of the U.S. as well as its relative decline as a world power. This is a gathering that takes place once every three years, bringing together political leaders from North, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. It is the first time that the U.S. hosted the Summit since 1994. However, being the host was not enough for the U.S. to demonstrate that it was calling the shots.
Controversy began when the United States refused to invite the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua because they didn’t have the required so-called “democratic” credentials. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre further said that, “we do not believe that dictators should be invited.”
What hypocrisy! The United States rarely meets a dictatorship that it doesn’t like. In fact, a survey of all of the dictatorships in the world in 2017 found that the U.S. provided military support to 73% of them. Within Latin America in particular, this notion of supporting democratic credentials couldn’t be more absurd, with the U.S. having a long and bloody history of supporting coups, death squads and dictatorships at one point or another in the majority of countries south of its border. What credibility does the U.S. have to lecture anyone about democratic credentials?
The U.S. had no problem inviting Jair Bolsonaro to the Summit, the authoritarian president of Brazil where indigenous activists, critics of the regime, workers and journalists face intense violence and even murder. It had no problem inviting Iván Duque to the Summit, the president of Colombia, whose regime engaged in disappearances, sexual violence and torture against those who demonstrated against his austerity policies.
While certainly not paradises for working people, in the eyes of the U.S., the real crime of the Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan governments has nothing to do with human rights. Rather, it is their audacity to function outside of the orbit of the U.S. imperialist control while using a greater part of their resources to serve the needs of their population. The U.S. has no right to determine the future of Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua or anywhere else. Their futures should be determined only by the workers of those countries.
The hypocrisy of excluding Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua on the basis of a any alleged human rights abuses was not lost on the president of Mexico, Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, even if he was guided by his own political motivations. Lopez Obrador vowed to boycott the Summit and questioned, “How can you call it a Summit of the Americas when countries are being excluded?” The leaders of Bolivia, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala followed the lead of Mexico’s Lopez Obrador in abstaining from the talks.
With the abstention of many of the leaders of Central and South American countries, the United States is falling flat on its face as it attempts to present itself as a major world power and world leader. Even the far-right authoritarian president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, saw the relative weakness of the Biden administration and sought to exploit it to his advantage. Bolsonaro threatened to skip the summit unless he was promised to not be challenged on any of his human rights abuses and granted a private meeting with Joe Biden.
A major focus of the discussions at this event were the management of the growing migrant crisis and particularly the flow of people into the United States. This is in the context of one of the largest migrant crises in decades. The year 2021 saw 1.7 million migrants detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, an all-time high. At this moment, a caravan of around 15,000 people from Central America is moving through Mexico towards the U.S.
The Biden administration has continued the Trump administration’s policy known as “Title 42” which cynically uses the pretext of stopping the spread of COVID-19 to deny asylum to those seeking it. Many have also pointed out the implicit racism of immigration officials granting asylum to thousands of Ukrainians seeking asylum from violence while largely turning their backs on those coming from Central America.
At the Summit, Vice President Kamala Harris pledged $1.9 billion in aid from corporations such as The Gap and Visa to various Central American countries as part of an effort to curb the flow of asylum seekers moving north towards the United States. This money is in addition to the $1.2 billion that was given at the end of last year, which is said to create economic opportunity within the impoverished “Northern Triangle” of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. No doubt, economic hardship is a major factor forcing people to be displaced from their homes in the Northern Triangle. But is this investment geared to create any meaningful economic prosperity for workers within this region? Of course not. It has everything to do with creating an infrastructure and a business-friendly climate for major corporations to exploit the workers and the natural environment. The goal is to enrich the wealthy corporations, not the Central American people. This will not solve the root causes of the migrant crisis and will possibly make it worse.
All in all this Summit was another attempt of the U.S. to impose its policies on its southern neighbors, and the result was a less than stunning success, even by its own standards.