Biden launches a message of unity at a Summit of the Americas marked by absences | International
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Andrés Manuel López Obrador has appeared twice on the giant screen of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, where the Summit of the Americas has officially opened. This Wednesday was intended to convey the idea of unity and not only was the president of Mexico briefly on the screen, but also children and flags from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua also participated on stage or on the screens during the opening of this Summit with more absences than never. At the gala, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, launched a message of unity, although, yes, of unity among democracies.
“Democracy is the hallmark of an American Democratic Charter that emerged from the third Summit of the Americas, which captures our unique commitment to democracy as a region,” said the president. “We meet again today at a time when democracy is under attack around the world, and we renew our conviction that democracy is not only the defining feature of America’s history, but also an essential ingredient of its future,” Biden said.
It is the axis of Biden’s foreign policy: unity of democracies against dictatorships, autocracies and authoritarianism. In Europe, dealing with Putin and the Ukraine war; in Asia, allying himself with the democracies against China, and in America, where he has excluded countries that do not meet democratic standards from the Summit. Biden wanted to underline “the incredible power of democracies to make life better for everyone.”
“We don’t always agree on everything. But since we are a democracy, we resolve our disagreements with mutual respect and dialogue”, she has stated. “The question is what can we achieve by working together as true partners with diverse abilities, but with equality and mutual respect. Recognizing both our individual sovereignty and our shared responsibilities”, he underlined. As he began his intervention, Biden was interrupted by the screams of two attendees, who were evacuated from the room.
The Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, who spoke before Biden, has pointed out some of the problems in the region, such as “the climate crisis, food insecurity, economic inequality, corruption and gender violence.” Californian Harris has said that “new and innovative coalitions” will be needed to deal with them and that the Summit is an opportunity “to launch new initiatives, to start new conversations and to build new alliances.” The Summit raises that, proposals and initiatives, but does not yet foresee very concrete results.
Pedro Castillo has intervened in the ceremony because Peru was the host of the previous Summit, four years ago, and he endorsed the historic phrase of US President James Monroe, then pronounced against European intervention in the continent. “America for the Americans”, he emphatically concluded his speech, after defining the meeting as a “valuable space for joint action” and describing the agenda of topics proposed by the United States as correct.
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Attendees and absentees
From the beginning, the preparations for the Summit have been marked by the list of attendees and absentees. US diplomacy was inclined to veto the governments of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua due to the lack of democracy in those countries. However, he did not say it openly and left the door open for additional invitations, as he reiterated over and over again. The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, warned that he would not go to Los Angeles if those countries were not invited, and the organization of the Summit has since become a diplomatic nightmare for Washington.
Several countries also expressed their disagreement with the veto against Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, and threatened to join the boycott. Biden finally managed to convince Argentine President Alberto Fernández by offering him a visit to the White House next month. Jair Bolsonaro, who was not very willing to attend for other reasons, has also finally attended in exchange for a bilateral meeting with Biden, which will be held this Thursday. However, before flying to Los Angeles, he made some incendiary statements praising Donald Trump and considering the hoaxes that cast doubt on Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential elections to be well-founded.
At the end of the Summit, 22 heads of state and government attend, including Biden, and there are 8 other countries represented by their foreign ministers or other authorities. Among the main countries there are nine absences of the heads of state for different reasons. The governments of the three vetoed countries are not represented in any way. In response to that veto, Mexico, Bolivia and Honduras have sent their foreign ministers. Neither are the presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador, nor that of Uruguay, who was planning to come, but fell ill with covid, for other reasons. Fourteen nations expressed their rejection of the exclusions. Among these are Argentina, Chile, Peru and Ecuador, among others. Nevertheless, their heads of state flew to Los Angeles. With that, it is the Summit of the Americas with the least first-level participation among the large countries of the continent.
At the first meeting of foreign ministers, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who has replaced López Obrador, described the exclusion of the three autocracies from the first summit on US soil since December 1994 in Miami. “We do not accept the principle of intervention to unilaterally define who comes and who does not… We are at the same point of discussion as we were 10 years ago, in 2012 in Cartagena, where the conclusion was reached that the declaration that all the countries were invited; at that time the excluded one was Cuba, today it is other countries”, he affirmed.
Conversation with Guaidó
For missing, even the Venezuelan Juan Guaidó is missing, whom the White House has preferred not to invite despite recognizing him as the first democratic authority in Venezuela. To compensate, Biden has called him on the phone while he was flying to Los Angeles. In his call, the president has underlined the recognition and support of the United States for the National Assembly democratically elected in 2015 and for Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela. Biden expressed his support for the negotiations as the best path towards the peaceful restoration of democratic institutions, free elections, rights and freedoms in Venezuela. At the same time, he reaffirmed that he is willing to calibrate the sanctions policy based on the results of the negotiations, as he has already been doing. Guaidó supported the exclusion of the regimes of Maduro, Díaz-Canel and Ortega from the Summit and agreed with the idea of calibrating sanctions based on democratic advances.
The documents, proposals and discussions of the Summit deal with democracy, health, economic cooperation, energy and climate change. Those consensus documents have been watered down and are generic enough not to compromise too much or hurt anyone’s sensibilities. For this reason, they provide few results and in many cases what they mark are only objectives, priorities or the beginning of consultations to try to reach real agreements in the future. A somewhat more ambitious document on immigration has been reserved for Friday, but it was born with the burden that the presidents of the countries most concerned about the problem (Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) are not in Los Angeles. Washington trusts that at least Mexico will commit to the agreements.
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