The good side of the Summit of the Americas
Much has been said about the failure, when referencing the United States, in the recently concluded IX Summit of the Americas, held in Los Angeles, California. Indeed, it was a shot on the foot since the exclusions imposed by the US and the absences of some leaders in protest against them, turned the focus of the debates of the Summit to the exclusions. It was also the least attended and with the lowest level of representation of all that have been held so far.
However, the progressive governments of Latin America and the Caribbean may have a different interpretation regarding the results of the event. It was a fairly widespread show of rejection of US impositions on the region.
The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are not in a position to impose on the United States the policy that it must apply towards the region, but the best moments, in terms of independence and sovereignty, were demonstrated by the ability to present a common position against those policies that harm them.
The United States is the historical enemy of the integration of “Our America,” although a certain Juan González, Biden’s adviser for the region and architect of the California disaster, tried to convince us otherwise. Pan-Americanism is the expression of this policy and the OAS its most perverse monstrosity, because it consists of subordination disguised as independence. Faced with the first attempt at Pan-American articulation, organized by the United States in 1889, José Martí had prescient words: “Spanish America knew how to save itself from the tyranny of Spain; and now, after seeing with judicial eyes the background, causes and factors of the invitation, it is urgent to say, because it is the truth, that the time has come for Spanish America to declare its second independence.
Latin American and Caribbean integration was the dream of Simón Bolívar, and José Martí incorporated a more organic vision of the need to orient it against US expansionism. What for Bolívar was instinct, for Martí was knowledge and foresight. From that moment on, there has not been a single progressive movement in the region that has not raised the goal of integration among its goals, since it constitutes a necessity for its projects.
The phrase “divide and conquer” is attributed to the Roman emperor Julius Caesar, one hundred years before the modern era. In any case, it has been a maxim for attempts at conquest in all ages. The arbitrary division of tribes, communities and cultures, the result of colonialism, constitutes the origin of most Third World nations. There is no way to save oneself from economic dependence and political subordination, if not through the reconfiguration of world geopolitics. This was well known to the leaders of the United States when they defended the country’s integrity with blood in the 19th century. Also the Europeans who ended up looking for forms of integration, after centuries of fratricidal wars.
A problem for the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, beyond phenomena such as corruption, the interests of the native oligarchies, the subservience of some governments and the domestic social conflicts that are observed in many countries, is that the economies of the region are not designed to be complementary but competitive. This does not constitute a division marked by nature, but the result of colonialism and neo-colonialism, so overcoming this condition defines the essence of national struggles. Just as politics imposed this economic structure, politics can transform it, and that politics has no choice but to confront the hegemony of the United States on the hemisphere.
The issue of exclusions from the Summit was important because it contradicted the majority interest in favor of regional integration found at the moment. There is no doubt that there are different visions of possible integration, but, however modest the integrationist project may be perceived, it confronts the hegemonic pretensions of the United States and this is where its importance lies.
Whether it is the Mexican call to reestablish continental relations with the presence of the United States, but without the OAS, or the proposal by Argentine President Alberto Fernández to invite Joe Biden to the next meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States ( CELAC), to be held in December of this year in Buenos Aires, constitute signals oriented in a direction other than the status quo. Paraphrasing the Cuban singer and poet Silvio Rodríguez, “It is not the same, even if it seems the same.”
The rejection of the US blockade against Cuba is also included in this integrationist logic. It is not necessary to support the socialist process in Cuba to oppose the blockade; it is enough to have a minimum of patriotic sensitivity, since its transnational nature constitutes an interference in the internal affairs of all the countries of the region and the rest of the world. This is the cause of the absolute international opposition to this policy, even by the most faithful allies of the United States, with the exception of Israel, of course.
For others, it is a sword of Damocles, which hangs over the neck of anyone who tries to deviate from the rules established by the US. In reality, the blockade was invented to sow fear in the face of Cuba’s ‘bad example,’ but what was a weapon to render impotent Cuba’s revolutionary process has become an essential instrument of US foreign policy. Today dozens of countries suffer from US sanctions. By the way, better than calling them “sanctions,” which implies the legitimacy of condemning what is wrong, they should be named for what they are: aggressions by the U.S. against others.
The IX Summit of the Americas has produced a transforming scenario for the relations of Latin America and the Caribbean with the United States which could favor Cuba in various ways, particularly in its relations with Washington. Unless he has a special vocation for ridicule, if Biden does indeed accept Fernández’s invitation and appear at the CELAC Summit in Buenos Aires, as some media outlets claim, he would hardly do so without having modified certain aspects of his policy towards Cuba.
The recent steps taken in order to comply with the migratory agreements, expand the possibility of traveling to Cuba and relaxing the restrictions on remittances to the Island, which requires contacts and negotiations and inevitably extend bilateral relations to other areas, indicate that the forecast of the imminent collapse of the Cuban regime, inherited from Trump and the Cuban-American right, no longer carries as much weight. In this context, it would make sense to direct the policy towards Cuba in the direction that Biden himself proposed in his campaign and that could yield electoral benefits in certain sectors of the Cuban-American community.
It is not about lifting the blockade, a decision that corresponds to the congress, where the forecasts are very negative for the Democrats in the November elections, but it could carry out some executive measures, as Obama did and dismantle part of what was established by Donald Trump, with which the current Democratic administration has no commitment to keep and is a source of friction with other countries.
Another possible initiative is to remove Cuba from the list of terrorist countries, a measure so arbitrary and unjustified that even Donald Trump hesitated to carry it out. Due to the incidence that congress also has in this process, it is logical to assume that, if it considers doing so, it would try to do this before November.
In reality, the scenario presented to Biden at the IX Summit was quite similar to what happened at the VI Summit, held in 2012 in Cartagena, Colombia, when the majority demanded the presence of Cuba and which led to the presidents of Ecuador and Nicaragua not attending in protest against the non-inclusion of the Caribbean country. The isolation of the United States in the face of this matter was one of the factors that motivated Barack Obama to review the policy towards Cuba, later expressed in the following Summit, held in Panama three years later, the only one that has had the presence of all the governments of the region.
The difference is that now the movement for the inclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, as well as the lifting of the blockade and the revision of the inter-American system, is being led by Mexico, the main priority of the United States in its policy towards Latin America and Caribbean. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has considered recovering his country’s role as the region’s interlocutor with the United States, and he does so for ideological reasons and domestic political interests, but also because this enhances Mexico’s negotiating capacity vis-à-vis its powerful northern neighbor.
The panorama presented to the Biden government in Latin America and the Caribbean is not at all promising for U.S. hegemony, since other international actors, particularly China, have increased their influence in the region, and the emergence of progressive governments could be even more forceful based on the results of the upcoming elections in Colombia and Brazil. This is the reality reflected in the last Summit of the Americas, which may be the last, since, at least until now, no country has offered to organize the next one.