An African-American operator was pushing a cart with the flags of the countries participating in the IX Summit of the Americas inside the Los Angeles Convention Center on Wednesday. All intermingled, without order or concert, and among which the American stars and stripes barely stood out. There were a few hours left before the official inauguration and the ordeal suffered in the previous weeks by Washington before the pulse of the presidents who have criticized the exclusion of the three dictatorships (Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua) marks a conclave full of urgencies, more similar to a Cold War trench than to a summit between allies.
The Mexican Andrés Manuel López Obrador, from a distance, feels offended after forgetting how Donald Trump tightened the ropes on him. The Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro questions the election of Biden and Nicolás Maduro goes on a trip to Turkey to meet the Russian foreign minister. Central American presidents make public their disgust at the slaps received for their kicks against their critics. And all this under the gigantic shadow of China and Russia, who have managed to advance without much problem in the backyard of the United States.
“Definitely, the United States and President Biden are encountering more challenges than they expected in asserting regional leadership. Biden’s team has to be frustrated with some Latin American leaders, such as López Obrador,” John Polga-Hecimovich confirmed for EL MUNDO. Professor of Political Science at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Thus, Washington’s agenda points to two dimensions, one pragmatic and the other that seeks to maintain a minimum democratic status in a continent in danger, between the sword of the largest social powder keg on the planet and the wall of autocratic and populist advances, as the historian Armando Chaguaceda foresees.
“Biden seeks a regional articulation on cooperation issues that link both the pragmatic interests of the US, such as the control of emigration, with stopping Chinese influence in the region and recovering US economic influence. These are the interests of his realpolitik, along to the defense of democracy as a type of political order to establish links in the region”, he specified for EL MUNDO.
Fear of the influence of global autocracies weighs heavily on US authorities, but not on a good number of Latin American governments and foreign ministries. The AC Government and Political Analysis Foundation (Gapac) has already warned about Russia’s penetration into the region and, in particular, China “with its illiberal ideologies and disinformation agendas, seeking democratic erosion. The enormous human and material resources of the Communist Party of China, which include investments, loans, personnel training and cultural propaganda, serve to leverage the agenda of the political elite of that country”.
This alliance has strengthened, above all, the three revolutions, whose victims have raised their voices during the first days of civil society meetings. Dissidents and activists from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua are the other protagonists of the continental conclave.
The advance of the march of emigrants along the Mexican highways, where Venezuelans have a very significant presence, further airs the crisis that exists on the southern border of the United States. The Rio Grande/Rio Bravo is no longer just an obstacle to a better life, but also to freedom.
“The leadership of the United States has been in a tailspin since Trump’s arrival in the White House, and what Biden is trying to do is regain lost space. However, there is a serious conflict that he is giving his full attention to, in addition to very varied and severe domestic crises that have to do precisely with the democratic deterioration in the US. Talking about his leadership forces us to understand this context, because otherwise we would be starting from an influence that unfortunately does not exist”, said María Puerta Riera, professor of American government in Florida.
If there is another shadow that hovers over the summit, it is that of Donald Trump, who did not want to participate in the last conclave, held in Lima in 2018. There he left the rest of the leaders planted, among whom the three “punished” were not found either. of the current edition, although the Cuban foreign minister, Bruno Rodríguez, was present. The first leaders of Mexico, Bolivia and Honduras did travel to Peru.
“Trump’s policies were chaotic, there was no state policy behind them, they opted for direct and undiplomatic pressure. That failed in cases like Venezuela, because there was no multilateral pressure, but in others it achieved effects, like in Mexico with the tariff policy The paradox is that when the Biden administration wants to have a different, more multilateral stance, there are countries that are becoming braver, like Mexico. Now with Biden they seem offended and present themselves as defenders of Latin American sovereignty,” added Chaguaceda.
Despite everything, Puerta believes that the effects on US domestic politics are limited to South Florida. “Outside of that, here this summit does not receive wide coverage in the national news, compared to the rest of Latin America,” the political scientist has sentenced.
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