Summit of the Americas.. Is it the weather?

Summit of the Americas.. Is it the weather?

Summit of the Americas.. Is it the weather?
Summit of the Americas.. Is it the weather?

This was the moment those who covered America’s Fifth Summit had been waiting for. Just months into his presidency and in April 2009, Barack Obama signaled a new breed of American leadership in the Western Hemisphere by meeting and speaking at the time with feisty regional socialist Hugo Chávez at a rally in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. The two leaders shook hands and smiled, and Chavez took the opportunity to give the American leader a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s classic book on colonialism in the region, entitled “The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of Continental Pillage.” ‘.

At two Americas summits later — in Panama in April 2015 — Obama broke taboos dating back to the first Miami summit in 1994 and agreed to regional demands to allow communist Cuba to attend a meeting whose invitation list is based on is on democratic governance and a free market economy. Cuba does not meet the two conditions, but that didn’t stop Obama from smiling at the press cameras as he shook hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro in Panama City. And these are the moments when we journalists focused during these Western Hemisphere summits, for two reasons. First, because it helped illustrate how American leadership and interest in America has evolved.

And second, because there wasn’t much going on in the meetings, especially while Obama was in the White House, and also early after George W. Bush’s years in office after 9/11. I have attended six of the past eight Summits of the Americas. President Joe Biden hosted the ninth of these summits in Los Angeles on June 10, 2022. At some point, I came to the conclusion that the American summit was peaking early. It is perhaps no exaggeration to say that the peaks culminated with the inaugural meeting in Miami. The Miami Summit has kicked off with excitement and anticipation of what the summit will bring to the Western Hemisphere. At the time, President Bill Clinton was leading actions aimed at creating a free trade zone.

With democratically elected leaders replacing militaries in South America, and guerrilla warfare largely pacified in the region with the exception of Colombia, the summit could continue to be attended by all countries from Canada to Argentina and Chile, except Cuba. My coverage of Miami began with an article titled “Connectedness on a Continent” and in the wake of the summit I wrote a story titled “The Mission of Leaders in the Americas: Keeping the Spirit of the Miami Summit Alive” . With few exceptions, this task has not been accomplished, and the “Spirit of Miami” has faded with the events of 9/11, the United States’ focus on a new threat to national security, growing opposition to western free trade hemisphere Consensus, and growing public dissatisfaction with how much democracy can do.

The leaders met at a 2001 summit in Quebec City, Canada, and instructed their diplomats to draft a Democratic Charter for the U.S. states that would strengthen the region’s commitment to democratic governance. The document was passed at a special session of the Organization of American States on September 11, 2001. But after that, most subsequent summits were marked by disagreement and public rejection rather than unity. In Mar de Plata, Argentina, major protests against globalization and free trade were the main event abroad in 2005, and at home a growing list of countries rejected Miami’s commitment to a free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere.

For me, the Mar de Plata summit was an opportunity to compare two visions of freedom, embodied by two controversial personalities: President Bush, who launched the war in Iraq two years before the summit under the guise of freedom for Iraq and the greater Middle East and Che Guevara from Argentina, the hero of the liberation from imperial rule. Bush advocated individual liberty, while Che advocated the collective liberty of socialism. In Argentina, Bush’s invitations and the common people I met on the street were not welcome. And President Obama has had a better place with people all over Latin America. But he has never shaken off the deep conviction of many in the region that the Western Hemisphere in general is no longer important to Washington.

These images of America being a good natured hegemon but not interested in the region will collapse if Donald Trump becomes president. Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has alarmed the region by pointing to a revival of the 19th-century Monroe Doctrine to affirm Washington’s hegemony in the Western Hemisphere. This position has not been successful throughout Latin America. When the Summit of the Americas took place in Peru in 2018, Trump didn’t bother to attend.

His deputy, Mike Pence, attended and was met with a lukewarm reception, demonstrating the seriousness of the deterioration of United States relations with the region. The Biden administration has had a slow and difficult start in planning the summit, but the White House has expressed its interest in the summit by sending a high-level team to Los Angeles. The summit was attended by Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. One measure of the summit’s ultimate success may be President Biden’s ability, known for his good use of personal relations, to establish good personal relations with the leaders of Latin American countries. And his kindness to them could be an opportunity for a good journalism story.

* Diplomatic correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.

Published by special arrangement with the Christian Science Monitor service.

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