Summit of the Americas: Latin America, Biden’s forgotten priority | international

Despite bright Los Angeles sunshine, the President of the United States, Joe Biden, spent the entire week facing bad weather with a brave face. The President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, stopped him, however, at the opening ceremony of the Summit of the Americas, he repeatedly appeared on the giant screen of the Microsoft Theater. In the plenary sessions, while Biden called for unity, criticism from his guests rained down on him.

Despite this, at dinner last Thursday, at the idyllic Getty Villa in Malibu, Biden preferred to keep seeing the bottle half full. “We have some disagreements, but we agree on the basics,” he said in his brief welcome before eating a delicious salad, Pacific halibut with vegetables and white house honey, and sweet lemon, vanilla and cream pudding. Whipped cream and berries.

During dinner, Biden recalled telling President Barack Obama that “everything in politics is personal,” meaning that getting to know each other better makes a difference. But during the summit days, he did not show collusion with Evan Duque, the almost outgoing president of Colombia, who was by his side at various events during his three days in California. Several other leaders marked the distances. With Jair Bolsonaro, the chill was the first bilateral encounter with Brazil since Biden came to the White House. A day later, before the cameras for the family photo, they both appeared laughing. Many questioned the joke because the Brazilian does not speak English.

After the stormy presidency of Donald Trump, who has built walls and broken bridges with many Latin American countries, Biden has had the opportunity to strengthen ties with the region. To this very summit, four years ago, the President of the United States did not attend because he did not consider it important. said Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, who served as the vice presidential candidate on Friday with Hillary Clinton.

The Summit of the Americas typically brings together heads of state and government from across the Americas approximately every three years. This, ninth edition, was on the horizon as the perfect showcase for relationship therapy. “I think Trump has abused relationships with some of these countries a lot, hurt them in ways that are hard to describe, but this meeting can help restore those relationships,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro.

In memory the first summits were held in Miami in 1994 with Bill Clinton as host and the only thing missing was Cuba. However, organizing the event, in part because of the clumsy, this time became a diplomatic nightmare and the focus was on the guest list which wasn’t entirely clear until the same week of the event.

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The State Department made strenuous efforts to avoid a fiasco. He managed to impress Bolsonaro by offering a duo meeting that seemed cool to him and later calling the Brazilian president, who was very much on good terms with Donald Trump, as brilliant. He also attracted Alberto Fernandez in return for a visit to the White House next month, which did not prevent the Argentine president from getting tough with Biden and questioning the “right of acceptance” as one of the prerogatives of the summit host. But efforts were unsuccessful to attract Lopez Obrador.

“No matter what happens in the world, the Americas will always be a priority for the United States of America,” Biden emphasized this week to the rest of the presidents. However, the truth is that Washington has been well aware of the war in Ukraine and Asian politics and has lost weight and influence in a region where populist, leftist or anti-democratic governments abound.

At the end of the summit, Biden could offer a few mostly public conventions and a statement on immigration joined by 20 participants. Among those agreements are proposals for economic cooperation, plans to strengthen the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), health training programs and environmental assistance. It’s a step in the right direction, but we’ll have to wait for the next peak to gauge our progress. There should be clearer principles about the treatment of immigrants, the prohibition of family separation, and the avoidance of long periods of detention. This is only the beginning,” added Congressman Castro, part of caucuses Latin Democrats.

In implementing these proposals, the US government is now playing the opportunity to regain weight and influence in a region of which it is its natural leader. “We remain the greatest force organizing the Western Hemisphere’s response to shared challenges on the issue of pandemic, food insecurity or climate change issues,” said Juan Gonzalez, Western Hemisphere Director of the Homeland Security and Biden’s senior adviser on Latin America.

This is true, but it is also true that the list of presidents who pardoned their attendance at the summit due to their veto power against Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, as well as the criticisms made by some of those present, were interpreted as a particular challenge to that leadership. But the veto, boycott and division among states cast doubt on the importance of the summit in promoting true regional cooperation. “Despite the controversy, Latin America came out of this summit more united,” said Gabriel Borek, Chile’s president. But it sounds more like a well-intentioned statement than a fact.

The Immigration Declaration, although signed by only 20 of the countries participating in the summit, is perhaps the most significant outcome of this week. Officially, it is signed by heads of state, including the absent Lopez Obrador. It is accompanied by a series of concrete commitments to regularize immigrants, welcome refugees and temporary immigration quotas that are partly new and partly repackaging of previous declarations.

Biden, who has been criticized by Republicans at home, who accused him of being soft on immigration issues, managed to get the declaration to include a reference to facilitating the return of illegal immigrants in exchange for funding for other destination countries, commitments to host refugees and to open avenues for settlement, legal immigration and temporary workers. But this will not relieve the pressure caused by an unprecedented immigration crisis in the short term. The question is whether the agreement really translates to the “shared responsibility” that the Declaration proclaims. In Biden’s words: “This is just the beginning. There is a lot of work to be done, to say the obvious.”

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