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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

June 2022: Summit of (Some of) the Americas

from the June 22, 2022 Bulletin

social movements international solidarity foreign relations

Writer, playwright, and freelance journalist Kurt Hackbarth lives in Oaxaca. A Mexican citizen and cofounder of the independent media project “MexElects,” he’s currently coauthoring a book on the landmark 2018 Mexican election that dumped the nation’s corrupt political status quo and brought Andrés Manuel López Obrador into office. You can get more detail on Hackbarth’s summit analysis from his just-published Jacobin magazine commentary.

The Summit of the Americas brings together the nations of the Western Hemisphere under the Organization of American States umbrella. When and why did the OAS form?


Kurt Hackbarth: The Organization of American States launched in 1948 as a Cold War tool to further the interests of the US in the hemisphere. The summits began in 1994 in the wake of NAFTA, as a vehicle to give the US a platform to proselytize the benefits of free trade and extend free trade agreements throughout the Americas. AMLO has put it bluntly: The OAS has always been a “lackey organization.”


This year, Joe Biden decided unilaterally not to invite his three least favorite countries. Has something like that ever happened before?


Cuba was suspended in 1962 on the grounds of its being a “dictatorship.” But the OAS welcomed right-wing dictators all through the years — and many of those dictators entered office via US machinations against elected left-leaning leaders! Most recently, the OAS had a role in causing the coup in Bolivia by casting unfounded doubts on the election of Evo Morales in 2019. After a year of bloody repression, the will of the people became clear. They elected the socialist Luis Arce.


In 2015, under President Obama, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua all attended the Summit of the Americas. Biden moved backward by excluding the three countries.


His administration’s non-invitation saga turned out to be embarrassingly clumsy. First, the assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, Brian Nichols, disingenuously stated that “we don’t expect [those countries] to be present.” Well, not if they’re not invited! After hemming and hawing, the administration didn’t issue official invitations until mere days before the summit. It seemed that State Department officials had no clue about the backlash they would unleash.


Did AMLO make a wise move skipping the summit?


Not just wise, but masterfully orchestrated, a move that elevated México’s status in Latin America. When AMLO first announced he wouldn’t attend due to the unilateral decision to exclude member governments, the presidents of Bolivia and Honduras followed suit the same day. CARICOM, the organization of Caribbean nations, also threatened a boycott.

Right before those announcements, AMLO had taken a swing through Latin America. He clearly organized the opposition to the US claim to be the sole arbiter of who gets to be deemed “worthy” to participate.


Latin America and the Caribbean effectively used an inside/outside strategy.

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?

What the US public does can be so important. The public has the power to stand up to its own government. During the official summit, cries of “Viva México!” came from the alternative People’s Summit in Los Angeles. Medea Benjamin from Code Pink held up a sign with a quote from AMLO. Gestures like these get noticed.


Supporting Latin American and the Caribbean’s economic and political sovereignty can be a real way to defend democratic principles and reduce the power of US corporate interests that hurt us all.

Photo: TeleSur