As the Summit of the Americas opened in the United States on June 6, Washington was hoping to revive and reinforce Pan-American cooperation. But the boycotting of the gathering by the president of Mexico, in reaction to the exclusion of three countries, brought to light the diminishing impetus of U.S. influence over the rest of the continent.
“I am not going to the summit because not all the countries of America are invited. I believe in the necessity of changing the policy which has been forcibly imposed for centuries: exclusion,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador castigated during a press conference on June 6, the very day the Summit of the Americas opened in Los Angeles. This summit, which has been taking place every four years since 1994, usually brings together the heads of state of the American continent.
But this year, the United States, host country of the summit, struck Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the guest list. This decision was motivated by the violations of democratic principles and human rights taking place within those three countries.
Mexico, as well as other Latin American countries such as Bolivia and Honduras, had been threatening for several weeks not to attend, should Washington persist in wanting to exclude those three countries. “I very much regret this situation, but I do not accept that any one country should believe itself above other countries,” added the Mexican president, one of the most prominent leaders of the region — and the main partner of the U.S. in Latin America.
A Blow to US Influence in Latin America
This boycott by the president of Mexico, although not surprising, is nevertheless a blow to Joe Biden’s efforts to assert his regional leadership, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. Originally, the summit was supposed to focus on counter-immigration efforts, as more and more people are fleeing to the United States to escape poverty and violence, but also on climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. But it mostly highlights the diminishing influence of the United States within the region, while Biden’s foreign policy the last few months has for the most part been focused on Europe, with the war in Ukraine, and Asia, where Washington is trying to flex its muscles in front of China. At the same time, China is gaining ground and investing heavily in South America.
The United States still has “a lot of soft power,” Michael Shifter, a researcher for Inter-American Dialogue, tells the AFP. But “as far as diplomatic and economic engagement goes it’s on decline.” Biden engaged in a policy of openness with Cuba, in a departure from his predecessor Donald Trump’s approach, last May even lifting several of the sanctions on the Caribbean island. Consequently, “the Los Angeles summit was supposed to bring to the forefront this new ambition of Biden’s for Latin America. But it mostly highlighted his paralysis,” Gaspard Estrada, executive director of the Political Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean at Sciences Po, told French daily Le Monde. [
Excluding 3 Countries Is ‘Not the Way’
During a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, President of Chile Gabriel Boric called the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the Summit of the Americas a “mistake,” Reuters reports. “It is not the way, and we will say that during the Summit,” he continues. It is “extremely important that we have the opportunity to engage with our fellow hemispheric partners, some like-minded, some less like-minded,” added Justin Trudeau.
“This conflict over attendance to the summit shows that Washington’s rhetoric about democracy has become inaudible in Latin America,” adds Le Monde. How can we justify the exclusion of Venezuela and Nicaragua when the United States continues to trade with Saudi Arabia? Why were other countries, such as Brazil, not excluded from the summit? When questioned on the subject, a White House representative eluded the question: “It’s a bit of an apples and oranges comparison.”
The Cuban government, for its part, denounced an “anti-democratic and arbitrary” decision.