Summit number nine


Reginald Dumas

THE Ninth Summit of the Americas will be held early next month in Los Angeles. At the time of this writing, it seems the US, as host country, will not be inviting Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Why, since three countries participated in the seventh summit (Panama 2015) and the eighth (Peru 2018)? And since the US was present at both, Barack Obama in Panama and Mike Pence in Peru? What’s the problem now?

In Cuba’s case, I assume it must be largely one of US domestic politics. More than six decades after the revolution that ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista, Cuban exiles and their US-born descendants, ensconced in Florida and elsewhere in the US, still hymn immutable anti-Castrista bitterness and revenge.

A meeting on US soil to which their enemy is invited would drive them to punish the Democrats in the mid-term Congressional elections later this year.

President Biden, already lagging in the polls, and faced with all manner of internal difficulties, might see his House of Representatives majority considerably shrink, and a Republican-controlled Senate emerge.

There is another factor: the colonialist 1823 Monroe Doctrine, by which America arrogated to itself the headmastership of the western hemisphere, and for the last 60 years has been caning Cuba for misbehaviour in daring to follow its own governance and ideological path. And, worse, refusing to be cowed or to collapse.

Justifications given for the US embargo and other sanctions, which have severely affected the island, include Cuba’s unwillingness to “democratise,” and its “state-sponsored terrorism.”

But there are many thoughtful Americans today who feel that their country is in several areas – voting procedures, race, societal equity, human rights, etc – drifting away from proclaimed democratic tradition and practice. And can anyone tell me where in this hemisphere, or outside, Cuba is “sponsoring terrorism?”

Where Nicaragua is concerned, Daniel Ortega and his wife strike me as bent on keeping power in their marital grip, and their country in a kind of developmental penumbra.

They were however placed there by their compatriots. It may well be that Nicaragua’s electoral system is flawed, but on this issue, the US itself is living in a glass house.

Nicolás Maduro faces legal trouble in the US, and, diplomatic immunity notwithstanding, wouldn’t attend the summit if invited.

However, does the US recognise his government, or still feel that the real President of Venezuela is the hapless Juan Guaidó?

If Guaidó’s their man, why did they send an official delegation to Caracas several months ago to hold talks with Maduro? Whom does the US recognise as the legitimate leader of Venezuela?

I thought the May 3 Washington speech by Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, at a luncheon of the Council of the Americas, might shed some light on my areas of darkness. Not unexpectedly, Blinken said nothing specific about US domestic politics or the exclusion of any country from the summit.

But he did make some points which could be interpreted as having deeper significance than they appeared.

He said: “We should avoid falling into blocks of left and right, liberal and conservative, and focus on what actually brings us together as democracies.

"That means recognising our shared interest in strengthening the pillars of our fellow free and open societies like the rule of law…respect for human rights, free and fair elections, a vibrant, independent press…” Was that a veiled message (perhaps not so veiled) to the three prodigals?

Then, naming the three, Blinken spoke of “taking the argument to closed countries, and to citizens across the hemisphere, about which system” – he meant democracy or autocracy – “is actually better in delivery for its people.” (That comparison could be valid only if there were no US sanctions on the three. But there are.)

He did offer a flickering candlelight of flexibility, though: “the debate about which system does better by the people it’s supposed to serve is one that we should welcome…We can be humble about where democracy has fallen short…”

And he called, properly, for “closer collaboration, closer co-ordination, coming together, working together, especially when it comes to the most intractable problems.” I agree. But then, why exclude anyone? Why not welcome an opportunity for “debate” and “coming together”?

Also, how to explain his assertion that the meeting will be “the most inclusive Summit of the Americas in history,” although countries that participated in previous summits may be barred from it? And even though some invitees won’t attend if anyone is barred?

An alternative politico/civil society summit is being arranged, I gather, to coincide with the Ninth Summit. There will be mas’ in Los Angeles between June 6 and 10.


"Summit number nine"

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