‘Summit of the Gringos’ set to be a lonely affair

The following article, by Friends of Socialist China co-editor Carlos Martinez, is a slightly expanded version of a piece written for Global Times and published on 1 June 2022. Carlos discusses the forthcoming Summit of the Americas and the public relations crisis it is creating for the US, with a significant number of key politicians in Latin American and the Caribbean refusing to attend, in protest at the unilateral decision by the US to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The article concludes that the US should give up on its idea of Latin America as a “back yard”, and instead follow China’s example, developing an international relations strategy based on mutual respect, mutual benefit, equal treatment and non-interference.

The Ninth Summit of the Americas is due to take place from the 6th to the 10th of June in Los Angeles, the first time it has been hosted in the United States since President Bill Clinton convened the inaugural Summit in Miami in 1994. It comes as Joe Biden, 16 months into his presidency, is working on multiple fronts to rebuild a stable US-led imperialist alliance following four erratic years with Donald Trump in the White House.

When Biden announced in his first major foreign policy speech as president that “diplomacy is back” and that the US would “repair its alliances”, this was merely a promise to carry forward the century-old project of domination and hegemonism. So much is obvious from the proposed expansion of NATO, the fierce attempts to weaken Russia, the creation of AUKUS, the revival of the Quad, the flagrant encouraging of Taiwanese secessionism, and the recent launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity – a comically hopeless attempt to isolate China.

In this context, the Summit of the Americas 2022 provides an opportunity for the US to reassert its leadership in what it has considered its “back yard” for the last 200 years.

However, things are not going to plan. In response to a unilateral announcement by the US that the socialist governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua would not be invited to the Summit, multiple leaders in the region declared they refuse to attend. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated bluntly: “If everyone is not invited, I will not go.” In spite of a concerted lobbying effort from Washington, López Obrador stuck to his position, asking: “Is it going to be the Summit of the Americas or the Summit of the Friends of the US?”

Bolivian President Luis Arce echoed the sentiment of his Mexican counterpart, saying that he would not participate if Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were excluded. Likewise Xiomara Castro, the recently-elected leftist President of Honduras stated: “If all the nations aren’t there, it isn’t a Summit of the Americas.”

It may well be that the entire CARICOM – an intergovernmental organisation with 15 member states in the Caribbean – boycotts the Summit, with Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the US, asserting that “if the United States insists on not inviting Cuba to this meeting, it will immediately cause the CARICOM countries not to attend.” Biden is so concerned about the possible complete collapse of the Summit that he dispatched his envoy Christopher Dodd to Argentina to convince President Alberto Fernández to attend. Fernández did not confirm whether or not he would go to the Summit, but he did take the opportunity to reproach Dodd, saying “it’s shameful that the US maintains a blockade against Cuba and Venezuela.”

It is impressive to see so many Latin American and Caribbean leaders standing united in defence of their collective dignity and rejecting what senior Venezuelan politician Diosdado Cabello has characterised as a “summit of the gringos.” This is a reflection of a rising and irreversible trend towards sovereign development; an assertion of both independence and regional unity.

The Monroe Doctrine, first articulated by President James Monroe in 1823, denounced European colonialism and interference in the Western Hemisphere, not on the basis of any anti-colonial principle but as an assertion of the US’s exclusive rights to exploit the continent. Since that time, the US’s relationship with the countries of Central and South America has largely been characterised by neocolonialism, and the region’s land, natural resources, labour and markets have been subservient to the needs of US monopoly capital.

When the US has been unable to secure its interests through quiet pressure and economic coercion, it has not hesitated to use force. The 1954 coup d’état in Guatemala, overthrowing the elected government of Jacobo Árbenz, was engineered by the CIA (an interesting historical footnote is that this incident helped to radicalise Che Guevara, who was living in Guatemala City at the time). In 1961, the US orchestrated an invasion of Cuba, with a view to overturning the Cuban Revolution. The US backed brutal military coups in Brazil (1964), Chile (1973) and Argentina (1976). Following the Sandinista Revolution, the US financed and supported right-wing narco-terrorist militia in waging a decade-long civil war in the 1980s.

This tragically violent dynamic has not remained in the distant past. In 2002, the CIA backed a coup attempt against the Chávez government in Venezuela. The US supported the constitutional coup against Dilma Rousseff’s progressive government in Brazil (2016) and the coup that brought down the Evo Morales government in Bolivia (2019). Meanwhile, the US maintains harsh unilateral sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

But as hard is it might try, the US cannot stem the tide of multipolarity. The peoples of the region are simply not willing to accept the Monroe Doctrine any longer. Speaking in January this year, President Biden clearly thought he was presenting Latin America a valuable gift by upgrading its status from “back yard” to “front yard”. However, the peoples of the region are no longer willing to be any type of yard.

China’s rise has been an important boost to Latin America’s attempts to break its dependency on the US, with bilateral trade increasing from just 12 billion USD in 2000 to 315 billion USD today. Of the 33 countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region, 21 have signed up to the Belt and Road Initiative. As veteran US peace activist Medea Benjamin noted recently: “China has surpassed the US as the number one trading partner, giving Latin American countries more freedom to defy the United States.”

With the expansion of investment, trade, aid and diplomatic ties with China, Latin America has a historic opportunity to climb the ladder of sovereign development, to improve the living standards of its people, and to affirm its status as a key player in an increasingly multipolar world. For this reason the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, speaking with Hu Jintao in Beijing in 2006, spoke of China’s relationship with Latin American as a “Great Wall against American hegemonism.”

As Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated recently, Latin America is neither a front yard or a back yard of the US. “And the Summit of the Americas is not the Summit of the United States of America.” If the US wants to improve its relationship with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, it should follow China’s example and adopt an international relations strategy based on mutual respect, mutual benefit, equal treatment and non-interference. In short, it should give up on the Project for a New American Century and come to terms with humanity’s trajectory away from hegemonism.

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