U.S. in a Quandary Over Summit of the Americas to be Held in Los Angeles in June

Opening meeting of the Eighth Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru in 2018, in which Cuba participated.

For the past month, which countries the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has and has not invited to participate in the 9th Summit of the Americas, that it is hosting in Los Angeles from June 6 to 10, has become a topic of hot controversy. The position taken by the White House is that Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are not being invited, supposedly because their governments lack the democratic credentials and legitimacy to sit with the likes of those of Colombia, Brazil, Haiti, of course the U.S. itself, and others it deems to have been democratically elected. This is a departure from the tradition established by the last two Summits -- the Seventh, hosted by Panama in 2015 to which all countries were invited, and the Eighth hosted by Peru in 2018, where Cuba was again invited, though President Maduro of Venezuela was barred from entering the country.

A number of leaders of Latin American countries, including the presidents of Mexico and Bolivia, as well as several Caribbean heads of state have over the past month announced their intention to boycott the OAS-linked Summit if Cuba or any other countries of the Americas are excluded, or if an invitation is extended to Juan Guaidó who the U.S. absurdly continues to refer to as Venezuela's "interim president." The leaders of several other countries, among them the presidents of Honduras and Argentina, have yet to make their intentions known, but have also weighed in, speaking out against the notion of a Summit where the host gets to pick and choose who can attend, asking how that can be called a Summit of the Americas? Still others, including the presidents of Brazil and Guatemala, have let it be known they will not attend either, for reasons they don't make explicit, but suggest are related to the U.S. disrespecting their countries' sovereignty.

The fact that the Biden administration has resorted to saying, when pressed about its intentions, that it has not yet sent out the invitations -- to an event taking place in less than three weeks -- indicates the quandary the U.S. has been thrown into by this rebellion in its "backyard."

In a speech delivered on May 18 celebrating the 127th anniversary of the birth of Nicaragua's historic revolutionary leader, General Augusto Sandino, President Daniel Ortega addressed the matter of the Summit as well. He compared the actions of the U.S. to those of a King who gives himself the right to decide when the colonies of his empire do and do not meet, and who will be invited to join his meetings to plot against the peoples of his empire -- in this case of Latin America and the Caribbean. He said it was ridiculous and absurd to even conceive of such a thing happening at a time when the countries of Latin America and Caribbean have already created their own meeting place in the form of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which the peoples of the region courageously created without inviting the U.S. or Canada to be part of it. Just like CELAC holds respectful discussions with the People's Republic of China or with the Russian Federation, or with India, he said, it can extend the same invitation to the U.S., but without allowing it to put conditions on which CELAC member countries attend such a meeting. "We have to make ourselves respected," he said. "We can't be pleading with the Yankee or begging him in order to go to his Summit."

Ortega said he understood and appreciated the concerns and approaches taken by governments and leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean to get the U.S. to reverse its position, saying theirs was a brave stance under the circumstances. As for Nicaragua, he said, "I say from here to the Yankee: Forget about it, we are not interested in being at your Summit."

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 5 - May 21, 2022

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