Washington Faces Ultimate Snub, As Latin American Heads of State Threaten to Boycott Summit of Americas

“The real risk is that — after nearly three decades of summitry — this year’s [Summit of Americas] may be interpreted as a gravestone on U.S. influence in the region.”

A growing list of Latin American heads of state have either point blank rejected the idea of attending the upcoming Summit of Americas, an international summit meeting that President Joe Biden is supposed to be hosting in Los Angeles in June, or are threatening to withdraw unless the leaders of all of the region’s countries are invited.

The seeds of revolt were sown when the US State Department announced in late April that the Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan governments would probably be excluded from the Summit. Speaking to a small group of reporters, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said “they are unlikely to be there,” adding that the summit was only open to the Western Hemisphere’s democracies.

The Biden Administration’s hypocrisy is, as often, palpable. No government, Western or otherwise, has done more to topple democratically elected sovereign governments and prop up autocratic regimes in Latin America (and elsewhere) than the US. In the past 13 years alone Washington has supported two successful military coups in the region, one in Honduras in 2009, the other in Bolivia in 2019. Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, who himself was the latest in a long succession of Latin American leaders deposed in a US-supported military coup disected Washington’s absurd double standards in a two-sentence tweet:

The United States, author of Operation Condor and armed interventions with massacres, says it will not invite countries that “disrespect democracy” to the Summit of the Americas. The only disrespect is from the US that practices interventionism and orchestrates coups against anti-imperialist countries.

A Long History of Exclusion

Inaugurated in 1994, the Summit of Americas is held every or four three years by the Washington-based Organization of Americas. In the words of its secretariat, the Organization of American States (OAS), “heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere gather to discuss common concerns, seek solutions and develop a shared vision for the future development of the region.” The member institutions of the Summit’s working group include the OAS, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank Group, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Despite being a founding member of the OAS, Cuba was effectively suspended from the organization between January 31 1962 and June 3, 2009. It has also been the target of the most enduring trade embargo in modern history. For almost the entire time the OAS has been in operation, Cuba has been barred from participating in the summits. That changed in 2015 when the event’s host, Panama, invited the country back into the fold. Three years later, Havana sent its foreign minister to the subsequent Peru Summit.

Apart from Cuba, all 34 member countries have sent representatives to all eight Summits of America since the inaugural summit was held in Miami in 1994, according to Wikipedia. But that is set to change. The Daniel Ortega government recently expelled the OAS from Nicaragua after the organization refused to recognize his recent reelection. Venezuela applied to cancel its membership of OAS in 2017, a process that took all of two years to complete. Also, lest we forget, Washington does not even recognize the current government in Venezuela while its President Nicolas Maduro is wanted by US authorities on narco-terrorism.

As such, it will come as little surprise if these countries do not make the guest list for the LA Summit. But Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lóproppez Obrador (AMLO) is determined to change that. On May 10, he said that unless all the countries in Latin America were invited, he personally would not attend the summit and instead send a representative. Asked by a reporter in Mexico City if this should be seen as a gesture of protest, AMLO responded that it should. It it is time, he said, for policies of exclusion to end:

“Participation in the Los Angeles Summit has not yet been resolved because we are proposing that no one is excluded because we seek the unity of all America. We feel that there should be no confrontation. Even with all the differences, we must seek dialogue… We have a very good relationship with the government of President Biden. We want everyone to be invited. That’s the position of Mexico.”

AMLO had just returned from a tour of Central America that included a stop in Havana where he blasted the U.S. sanctions on the island and called on Biden to invite Havana to the summit.

The White House has since clarified that no definitive decisions have yet been made regarding invitations to the summit. “We haven’t made a decision about who will be invited, and no invitations have been issued yet,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday. But a day later Brian Nichols reiterated, in an interview with El País, that the Biden Administration “does not think it convenient to include countries that do not respect democracy.”

The Boycotts Begin

Since AMLO’s statement on Tuesday, two other heads of state — Luis Alberto Arce Catacora of Bolivia and Xiomara Castro of Honduras — have joined the boycott. Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the United States, Ronald Sanders, cautioned in late April that leaders from most Caribbean Community countries won’t show up to the summit if Cuba is excluded. Sanders told POLITICO that many Caribbean countries would also object if the US invites Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader that Washington handpicked to lead that country.

Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro, who has had strained relations with the Biden administration, especially after his refusal to endorse sanctions on Russia, also plans to skip the summit, according to Reuters. Between them Mexico and Brazil account for just over half of Latin America and the Caribbean’s roughly 660 million people, and as things currently stand neither of their heads of state is planning to attend. In other words, as Sanders noted, “we don’t have a Summit of the Americas that is meaningful.”

On Thursday, Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Marcel Ebrard threw extra fuel on the fire by likening AMLO to Barrack Obama, who met with then-president of Cuba Raúl Castro at the 2015 Summit of Americas in Panama. It was the first high-level meeting between both countries for more than half a century and was the first time that Cuba had participated in the Summit of Americas since its inaugural meeting in the US in 1994.

A year later, Trump took office and normality quickly resumed. Within months Cuba was once again designated a terrorist state and the multi-decade embargo was further tightened. Since taking office Biden has also refused to engage with Cuba, while also sticking with Trump’s policy of not officially recognizing Nicolas Maduro’s government and ramping up sanctions pressure on Nicaragua.

It is an approach that is at stark odds with Biden’s professed desire of wanting to establish a new era in relations with Latin America, wrote Ebrard in a tweet.

President López Obrador proposes returning to the path begun by Obama and interrupted since then. Blockades and embargoes only bring suffering to the people, not democracy. Those who criticize us today know this.

Latin American leaders want Biden to unveil new investment and financial support for their countries, according to Politico. But little has emerged so far. During his recent tour of Central America AMLO repeatedly lamented that Washington hasn’t yet delivered on its pledge to give $4 billion to aid the economies battered of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and in the process address some of the challenges driving migration to the US. In the absence of support countries are instead turning to Beijing, Politico notes.

There is a reason for this. Unlike the US, China generally does not try to dictate how its trading partners should behave and what sorts of rules, norms, principles and ideology they should adhere to. What China does — or at least has by and large done over the past few decades until now — is to trade with and invest in countries that have goods — particularly commodities — it covets. In Latin America and the Caribbean it has worked a treat.

Dreams of Unity

Now, many countries in the region, including long-time US client states like Chile and perhaps even Colombia, are voting for left-of-center governments that are pledging to reform some of the neoliberal economic policies that have prevailed in the region. More important still, if the former president of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wins Brazil’s presidential elections in October and former Marxist revolutionary Gustavo Petro win Colombia’s elections this month, the four largest economies of Latin America — Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina — will, for the first time in living memory, be governed by left-of-center governments that are not fully aligned with US economic or foreign policy interests.

If that happens, they will want to steer a more independent course for Latin America. In July last year, at a meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), AMLO called for the Washington-based OAS to be replaced by “a body that is truly autonomous, not anybody’s lackey”. His suggested replacement, to be modelled on the European Union, is CELAC. The proposal, he said, “is nothing more and nothing less than the creation of something similar to the European Union, but in tune with our history, our reality and our identities.”

In March this year, Lula visited Mexico City where he had a three-hour meeting with AMLO. According to sources present at the meeting, the topics addressed included building a common agenda with international organizations, expanding CELAC’s role and building a regional alliance to temper China’s fast-growing influence in the region. Lula is also calling for the creation of a regional currency, called the Sur, to complement national currencies and reduce the dollar’s dominance in the region.

“Let’s get back to reestablishing (Brazil’s) relations with Latin America and God willing, to create a new currency in Latin America, so that we don’t have to remain so dependent on the dollar. We’re going to try to bring back the BRICS.”

Of course, a reality check is needed. Latin American leaders have long dreamt of achieving regional political unity. They include, of course, Simon Bolivar himself, the Caracas-born revolutionary leader who liberated vast swathes of South America from the Spanish in the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Every attempt at regional unity, no matter how well-intentioned, has so far failed. Further complicating matters is the morass of pre-existing commitments any new union would have to contend with, as Kurt Hackbath notes in an article for the Jacobin:

The ink is barely dry on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the sequel to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) tying Mexico to the United States and Canada (and which was supported by AMLO himself). But that is far from all. Of the twenty countries with which the United States has free-trade agreements, over half are with Latin America, including virtually all of Central America, as well as Colombia, Chile, and Peru. Several more, including Mercosur, have agreements in force or in process with the European Union.

Unsurprisingly, the thrust of the these accords is to strengthen the hand of multinationals, wiring in intellectual property rights, reducing taxes and regulations on business activity, opening countries to uncontrolled trade flows, allowing unrestricted access to raw materials, and channeling disputes to friendly private tribunals. Absent a region-wide move to renegotiate or withdraw, it is hard to see how anything more than a pro forma union could be compatible with this entangling mesh of agreements, whose counterparts would no doubt wield them in courts for years to come in order to block any progress toward serious integration.

In other words, trying to build a Latin American Union is going to be a gargantuan task with huge obstacles and pitfalls to overcome, including, of course, the worsening economic fallout of the ongoing global pandemic, the ongoing war in Ukraine and US-EU-UK sanctions on Russia, which are bitterly opposed by most governments in Latin America. But if Lula does win in October, Washington could end up facing a very different political reality in its hemisphere.

The gathering boycott of Biden’s Summit of the Americas could just be a foretaste of what is to come. As Chatham House’s Christopher Sabatini writes in Foreign Policy, “the real risk is that — after nearly three decades of summitry — this year’s event may be interpreted as a gravestone on U.S. influence in the region.”

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  1. Symbols are Symbols

    What is the value of this summit at all? Has anything of importance happened there? Is this where they have decided to instigate the military coups in LATAM? If not, please, colour me sceptic about the claims about the loss of influence in the region. Moreover, AMLO is still sending somebody there so it is not particularly a lot of abstention.
    The US influence in the LATAM is any way exerted through a comprador oligarchy, CIA drug trade and the military.

    1. Questa Nota

      Almost makes one long for the stability of the Rockefeller era of South American client state management.
      Encomienda operations aren’t what they used to be. /s

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      I noticed that too. If AMLO were to send nobody at all whatsoever, that would be a symbol. And if some other big LatAm countries did the same, that would be a crashing symbol.

      That fact that I don’t feel personally snubbed by this goes to show that I am no longer emotionally invested in any psychic connection with the DC FedRegime.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Could this be connected to blowback from the Ukrainian war? All those Latin American countries have seen the lunatic response of the west, particulary the US, and are wondering now how safe their money is in the US – or in the west for that matter. With Cuba alone, they have played the Cuba game for the past 60 years and yet they are still there and the only reason for the sanctions is that they are beholden to local (Florida) US politics. I don’t suppose that Mexico was the only country threatened to punish Russia – or else. I bet that there are a lot of governments doing some back of the envelope calculations and seeing that the EU is now pricing themselves out of the world economy and that the US will be experiencing serious troubles of their own. China, on the other hand, is still rising and is willing to advance conditional loans to South American governments without all the suicidal economic mandates that they come with. I suppose that this conference is as good as time as nay to draw a line and let Washington know that the point of the conference is about Latin American affairs, not Norteamericana affairs.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Ukraine has only affected the rate. Deindustrialization was always going to lead to this.

  3. Ludus57

    Are there any real grownups in the US foreign policy establishment?
    Am I wrong to think that being respected for “doing the right thing” beats universal disbelief at such risible attitudes as seem to prevail in DC?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      No. Counting Clinton as the last adult as bad as he was, the last three Presidents and subsequently the promotion practices have all been deranged for 20 years.

      The best option is the Pentagon still has enough people who have to put plans into action and might be on the hook for high level failures.

      1. digi_owl

        Over the years i have pondered that an adult is just a school kid that has learned to hide his antics from criticism.

        Either by doing it when nobody is looking, or by finding excuses like alcohol.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Clinton set all this into motion with his Free Trade Treason and his NATO expansion conspiracy and his Yeltsinization of American government and his attempt to Clintonise the Russian economy totally and entirely so that his kind of people in Russia could privatise the wreckage.

        So whereas the post-Clinton presidents may be deranged, Clinton is truly evil. Jeffrey Epstein was a perfect expression of everything Bill Clinton stands for. I suspect Clinton still misses his good friend.

    2. Cat Burglar

      TINA cuts both ways, perhaps.

      Policy-makers are limited by short-termism and deliberate production of confirmation bias. Just like with domestic policy, they seem incapable of acting to get returns from enlightened self-interest or in the longer-term. They may respond with alarm to the current situation, but, as with 9/11, I suspect it will only be done by doubling down on normal: more money for security contractors, more control, more calls to funders.

      US Latin America policy has always worked in the past — why not double down on a sure thing?

  4. Mikel

    If the majority of the developed world kept it under sanctions since the beginning of its existence, what do these ideological fanatics of the estsblishment hink would have happened to the USA?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Arguably, they did as mercantism was all the rage. The part of the US they traded with was the South, part of the Confederacy’s ambitions. Europe ignored the Northeast except for excess population and woke up to a juggernaut that spanned a continent. The economic expansion during the 1770’s has been estimated to be higher than the previous century. Then manifest destiny and so forth was making sure that trade wars woukdnt matter. The War with the Barbary Pirates was a similar event. We weren’t going to pay excess fees.

      The real problem is the US would execute anyone who didn’t abide by corporate overlords in the Americas. Trade was fine, but the colonial masters wouldn’t tolerate local industry to avoid competition.

      1. Keith Newman

        @NotTimothyGeithner @ 9:34:
        Re your last paragraph: exactly. My fear is the US will engineer coups of various sorts and get rid of the troublemakers. It’s worked for the last 150 years. Maybe Ukraine will distract the US from business as usual depending on how it goes. Lula and other non-right wingers got into power when the US was busy slaughtering Afghanis, Iraqis, Libyans, and others in the Middle East over a 10 year period.

        1. digi_owl

          Speaking of Lula, i have recently witnessed first hand what Brazilian industry can produce. A local airline bought a couple of Embraer jets, and the other day i watched one of them perform what i suspect was landing practices on a nearby runway. Seemed quite agile given the tightness of the turnarounds.

          Would not surprise me if Brazil can be quite the industrial nation given half a chance.

          1. hunkerdown

            Famed xbox hacker and technology entrepreneur Andrew ‘bunnie’ Huang runs a picture guessing contest for electronics enthusiasts. The ware from February 2018 attests to the capabilities of Brazilian import substitution. Fellow electronics geeks in the commentariat are invited to pause and take a guess in order to fully appreciate the engineering achievements. Answer:

            The ware for February 2018 is an Ethernet card by Digitel, a Brazilian manufacturer, circa 1992. Brazil is an interesting market because protectionist trade measures made import electronics very expensive. The nominal theory, as it was explained to me, was to protect and encourage local industries, thus creating and maintaining high-paying local jobs. I had never seen a piece of electronics from Brazil, but indeed, many of the circuit board’s components bear company logos I had never seen before and a Brazilian country of origin. While at least facially it seems the trade policies created local jobs, a comparison of this card to its contemporaries outside Brasil — such as this 1992-vintage SMC “Elite 16” Ethernet card featured at vintagecomputer.net — gives a hint at how these policies might have also impeded the progress of technology.

            While 0x3d named the ware almost immediately, I really appreciated the cultural insight that Paulo Peres shared about the ware. For example, the fact that the ROM labeled MAQUEST is probably “MAQuina de ESTado” (state machine) and could have been a hack at the time to use locally-produced components to substitute for imported components. Even though in a free market a ceramic EEPROM + 74-series registers would be much more expensive than a PAL, the fact that the EEPROM and registers were produced in Brazil would have made the combo cheaper than an imported PAL once the trade tariffs were factored in.

        2. lyman alpha blob

          Like most things USian, the ability to do coups properly has seemingly been crapified. They got rid of Lula, but he’s back already. Same with Morales in Bolivia – he’s not back but his party is. And it was absolutely hilarious to see Uncle Sugar going begging to Venezuela recently asking for assistance with the price of gas, and surprise surprise, it was Maduro they consulted and not Senor Guy-Doe.

    2. Joe Well

      Canada would be a better analogy. You take an economy and culture that were tightly intertwined with the US and suddenly cut them off. Only worse since Cuba is so resource-poor in most things that matter, fuel in particular. They would have aligned themselves with anyone out of necessity.

  5. orlbucfan

    The sooner the American oligarchic stupids get seriously $$slapped$$ in the head by South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, the better! Kudos from an American!

    1. anon y'mouse

      how likely is this, given that LatAm oligarchs are in bed to the eyeballs with U.S. oligarchs?

  6. Alan Roxdale

    One sometimes wonders if the State Department is in fact a fifth column force engaged in a effort to bring down the American empire from within. At what point does incompetence cross the line into willful self-harm?

      1. digi_owl

        Or the grandchildren of exiled eastern European nationalists are using the state department to one up Russia, and sinking USA in the process.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Trotsky’s grandchildren?

        David Emory of the Spitfire List and the For The Record broadcasts has long advanced a theory that it is the American Fascist Elite . . . . the Ratliners and the Paperclippers . . . . the Traders with the Enemy and the original Hitler-Supporters-To-Begin-With, who are the ones getting revenge from within for New Deal America’s defeat of the Axis Powers.

        He has referred to Dubya Bush as the ” visible nexus of the Underground Fourth Reich in America” , for example.

        And here is a Jeff Wells article about the Deep Nazi PaperClipper State in America working to save something from the coming Axis defeat even while WWII was going on.

        Trotsky’s grandchildren are the Deep Nazi-Paperclipper Deep State’s “useful idiots” in this regard.

  7. Mark Gisleson

    Three cheers for South America!

    I have always been embarrassed by the Monroe Doctrine. It feels like an artifact of empire, not democracy.

    1. Point

      Biden, his family and some from Pelosi, Romney and Kerry to make it bi-partisan to feed from the Ukraine trough.

      To many Americans they look like this
      1 they are all corrupt and grifting insiders
      2 Ukraine war hysteria because their misdeeds are getting noticed
      3 their political class is willing to sacrifice others to protect themselves
      4 even if it means ruining Ukraine and America

      In other words, they are tapeworms feeding off humans and telling people not to seek treatment.

  8. Brooklin Bridge

    From afar, it seems nation states tend to fall in line with the US after making their complaints known, but it’s a gross mistake to continually ignore them. If neglected long enough, they become set, part of national sentiment, shared by most all as self evident and egregious injustices in the relationship.

    That said, I pity South America if they put the noose around their own neck for a match to the EU. Is it possible to correct the mistakes in the one when the South American states hardly have solidly public interest orientated governments to start with, even if that is changing slowly? Again from afar, such a grand idea seems particularly vulnerable to being influenced and then largely taken over by international financial and political interests that align with anything but the public interest. Particularly with the obstacles mentioned at the end of the post.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      If they all choose to become ” overseas Tibets” in the One Ball One Chain Great Han Prosperity Sphere, they might still end up better off than they are now.

      I suspect the experiment will be run, and we will see how it goes.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Especially, and in particular, I expect the experiment to be run against Brazil. How? CommuNazi China will support Bolsonaro every which way it can think of and get away with, because Bolsonaro supports the CommuNazi Chinese agenda of burning down every tree in the Amazon to grow more soybeans for China. Whereas Lula da Silva would slow down or prevent burning every last tree in the Amazon, which would mean less Amazon soybeans for CommuNazi China.

        So CommuNazi China would prefer Bolsonaro to “win” the coming election. Will CommuNazi China try to “make it happen”? Only if they can deny they are doing it, I suppose.

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