June 13, 2022

Summit of the Americas

“President Joe Biden tried to present a unifying vision for the Western Hemisphere on Thursday but the Summit of the Americas quickly spilled into open discord, a telling illustration of the difficulties of bringing together North and South America around shared goals on migration, the economy and climate…

“The nature of democracy itself became a sticking point when planning the guest list for the summit. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wanted the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua to be invited, but the U.S. resisted because it considers them authoritarians. Ultimately an agreement could not be reached, and López Obrador decided not to attend. Neither did the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.” AP News

After the summit, “Biden and leaders of Latin American countries signed a new agreement… The agreement, called the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, commits the United States to taking 20,000 refugees from Latin America during the next two years, a threefold increase, according to White House officials. Mr. Biden also pledged to increase the number of seasonal worker visas from Central America and Haiti by 11,500.” New York Times

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From the Left

The left highlights the structural impediments to reducing migration, and the need to engage with Latin America.

“With key leaders not in attendance, including Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, it remains to be seen if these commitments will have any potency… In the US, stemming migration has bipartisan support: Both Republicans and Democrats are working actively to reduce the number of migrants entering the country despite the fact [that] the US economy [needs] workers. But migration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity in the Northern Triangle

“El Salvador received almost $6 billion in remittances in 2020, Guatemala received more than $11 billion and Honduras about $5.5 billion, which constitutes 24%, 15% and 23% of their GDPs respectively. That means the flow of remittances from migrants abroad is seven times higher than the investments the White House touted… As leaders hob-nobbed in Los Angeles [last] week, at least 3,000 migrants… crossed the Guatemala-Mexico border heading north toward the US.”

Stefano Pozzebon, CNN

“The controversy over the summit’s guest list reflects a much larger issue—the U.S.’s general lack of engagement with Latin America that began under former President Donald Trump. ‘The U.S. didn’t do its diplomatic groundwork,’ says [Christopher Sabatini, senior Latin American research fellow at London-based think tank Chatham House]. U.S. investment has slowed in the region, which was badly hit by the pandemic. China, on the other hand ‘is filling the vacuum,’ Sabatini says…

“Trade between China and the Caribbean and Latin America has increased from $18 billion in 2002 to nearly $449 billion in 2021, making it the top trading partner of Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay. China has upped arms sales and engaged 21 countries in the region in its Belt and Road Initiative, a key tenet of Beijing’s foreign policy… Although Biden sees China as its greatest ‘strategic competitor’ on the geopolitical stage, the majority of his presidential term has been dominated by the war in Ukraine and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

Eloise Barry, Time

“Originally envisioned as a vehicle to advance U.S. interests in the Americas, the Summit of the Americas is a fatally flawed forum that doesn’t serve its purpose… There is next to nothing outside of geography that links our relationship with Belize and Brazil; Guatemala and Grenada; Colombia and St. Kitts and Nevis. As eight previous occasions have shown, trying to find consensus-driven common ground among these disparate states inevitably leads to pablum with no real-world effects…

“[Moving forward] Biden should propose separate regional meetings with the leaders of the countries of Central America, the Caribbean and South America, on a rotating annual basis. Such meetings would allow focused discussions with leaders of subregions where the U.S. interests are more coherent and better define each subregion’s relationship with the United States.”

Dan Restrepo, Los Angeles Times

From the Right

The right is critical of the Biden administration, arguing that the US is no longer respected in Latin America.

The right is critical of the Biden administration, arguing that the US is no longer respected in Latin America.

“Biden announced early on that he was not inviting Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to attend the summit due to those countries' human rights records. This might have earned Biden some credibility as a defender of human rights had he not also been so eager to supplicate himself to the leaders of Saudi Arabia and beg them to increase oil production, which they refused to do…

“Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was the first leader to say he would skip the summit if Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela were not allowed to attend, and he was quickly joined by the leaders of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Bolivia. Biden stuck with his decision not to invite Cuba et al., and Obrador and his allies stuck with their promise to boycott the summit. As a result, hardly anyone showed, and hardly anything was accomplished.”

Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“[What is alarming] is that any nation south of the Rio Grande would have the gall to snub an invitation from the United States of America. To state the obvious, America is vastly more powerful than these countries. With the enormous value of its trade in the Western Hemisphere, worth close to $2 trillion annually, the U.S. controls their fate far more than the other way around. During the Trump administration, all the U.S. had to do was threaten tariffs to get López Obrador to deploy Mexican troops along the border to stop illegal crossings, or force the Northern Triangle to sign ‘safe third country agreements’ to deal with the caravans streaming northward…

“López Obrador is right that America does not respect Maduro or Ortega, or Cuba’s Miguel Díaz-Canel, but that shouldn’t matter. Normally, they ought to be grateful for time spent around our president — to lobby him on myriad interests. The Monroe Doctrine held the entire region as America’s sphere of interest, and even today, a summit invitation should be seen as a summons to the court of American power…

“This is no longer the case under Joe Biden. America’s leader is now disrespected by inferior heads of state, who defer instead to the interests of broken nations like Cuba and Venezuela… Bizarrely, the summit invitees are being allowed to get away with the snub. In a month, Biden plans to host López Obrador at the White House. It’s like rewarding a delinquent student who doesn’t show up to class by giving him a hall pass. America cannot restore its respect by embracing nations that turn their backs to us.”

Arjun Singh, National Review

“The man who marketed himself as the great uniter during his presidential campaign has failed to unite Americans and also other partners in Central and South America. His predecessor may have often behaved like a bull in a china shop but he was able to secure agreements with Mexico and Northern Triangle countries to slow illegal migration. Foreign leaders may not have liked Trump but they knew he meant business and worked with him. The problem for the United States now is that world leaders don’t respect Joe Biden.”

Karen Townsend, Hot Air

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