Some nations refused to go, and some who did go to the summit spoke out critically. The president of CELAC — the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States — criticized the US non-invitations, and the presidents of Argentina and Belize, together with the foreign minister of Bolivia, gave powerful summit speeches against the US policy of exclusion. Out of 32 countries, only two took solidly pro-US stances.
The US brought “ambitious” goals around migration and climate change to the summit. What did these entail?
What the United States had to offer on migration was so small it was insulting. The US pledged to accept the resettlement of 20,000 people from all the Americas, a region with population of 700 million! Compare that to Biden’s promise to fast-track 100,000 from Ukraine, population 43 million. The US offered $314 million in humanitarian aid for the Americas, compared to $55 billion — and counting — to Ukraine. To add to the insult, the US picked out refugees from Venezuela as the hemisphere’s most “deserving”!
In contrast, AMLO has started two programs in México to address the economic sources of migration: a tree-planting project, Sembrando Vida, and an apprenticeship program for youth, Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro. These have been successful, and AMLO asked for US funding to expand these initiatives into Central America. The US refused, so México is itself donating money and expertise to help other countries start similar programs.
And the “big” US news on climate change: Colombia, Peru, and Brazil will get to share $12 million to address deforestation of the Amazon. But wait, Brazil’s current president Bolsonaro has actually been speeding up that deforestation by opening up the Amazon — the “world’s lungs” — to the private interests most responsible for the rainforest’s rapid destruction.
The summit’s big-sounding initiatives, like “the Methane Pledge,” amount to little. The US wants to simply cajole countries to curb emissions without financial aid. At the same time, the United States allows US companies to continue drilling on public lands and in the Gulf of México.
Did the summit change the balance of power in the region?
In the past, particularly under the leftist governments of the 1980s “Pink Tide,” nations of the Americas have made efforts for regional economic integration, including setting up their own “Bank of the South” to eliminate dependence and debt to the IMF and World Bank. The United States opposed these efforts, of course, and México under the regimes of the PRI-PAN sided with the US. But now México is leading the charge for independence from US domination.
At the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States conference last year, the host AMLO forcefully argued that the OAS should be replaced with a new organization that does not include the US or Canada. As the region’s biggest Spanish-speaking country and its largest economy, México plays a critical role. The US now stands alone against pretty much the entire rest of the Southern continent.
Is this new tough talk on independence from the United States just rhetorical? Does the region have the economic ability to stand up to the US? In much of the region, China has become the biggest trading partner and the lender of choice, partly because it doesn’t attach political strings to its loans, as the US does. US hegemony remains strong, but its grip is loosening.
What can we in the US do to support Latin American sovereignty?