By Carlton Joseph
Last week the United States (US) hosted the ninth Summit of the Americas with a focus on Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable future for the hemisphere. For the past 60 years the US has overthrown democratically elected governments in the Americas and installed US puppets to the detriment of the countries’ economies. In addition, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has imposed structural adjustment programs that have destroyed the economies in the region. The decisions of the US and IMF have resulted in massive migrations out of these countries
Mr. Biden’s “focus” indicates that he is out of touch with reality. Disparities in wealth, governance and national interests of these entities vis-a-vis America make it difficult to talk about equitable futures. Does he believe he is dealing with morons? Biden’s first mistake was his decision to exclude Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua from the summit, countries he deemed to be undemocratic. This decision led to the Heads of States of: Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Bolivia and Grenada, to boycott the summit. The fact that these leaders decided to stand up to the US is instructive, because it indicates how much influence the US has lost in the region.
Twenty-eight years ago, these leaders would be fighting each other to be invited, and none would dare to upset the president of the US, but times and conditions have changed. America’s past disrespect for the institutions and economic issues in the Americas, Obama’s military coup against President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, Trump’s presidency and his penchant to autocracy, his failed attempt at regime change in Venezuela, and the rise of China as the number one trading partner for South America’s largest economies – Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru, and other US actions, have forced the Americas to abandon, or find alternatives to America’s leadership.
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro, as a member of The BRICS an association of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS,) feels very secure. Bolsonaro demanded that Biden grant him a private meeting and refrain from criticism over deforestation in the Amazon, as a condition for his attending the meeting. This is especially significant, since Mr. Bolsonaro is a supporter of the lie that Mr. Biden stole the 2020 presidential election from Trump. More important, he is an autocratic leader that has turned his ire on both the US Congress and Judiciary when either acts against him.
One of the purposes of the Summit of the Americas is to “foment democracy” in the region and build democratic structures. If Bolsonaro is an example of the Biden administration’s ideas of democracy, then Biden’s mental health must be questioned. Is Biden’s age, or some mild dementia an issue? America needs to seriously think about not allowing persons over 70-year-olds from seeking any elected positions, especially presidents of the US.
Although the US called the summit, Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau, describing Canada as “a beacon of hope,” seemed to offer more concrete solutions to ease the pressure of northward migration. Canada agreed to spend $26.9 million this year on slowing the flow of migrants from Latin America and the Caribbean, and promised to take an additional 4,000 immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean in the coming years, and an additional 50,000 agricultural workers this year. About 40,000 more work visas than the US.
Biden’s private meeting with Bolsonaro where leaders of six countries boycotted the summit, while some attended, but openly criticized Biden for excluding Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, demonstrated the lengths he was willing to go to in order to offer a unified picture of the Western Hemisphere. Biden, seems unaware that we are in the age of instant communication, and that the optics of the past does not work, disunity is easily recognized and America’s loss of undisputed leadership is on full display.
Biden’s antiquated idea of a US-led, European, Asian, Americas, neoliberal “Global World Order,” is in question. The decline of U.S. hegemony and the reconfiguration of power on a global and hemispheric scale, especially when you acknowledge, the power of China to use its banks, and its building of infrastructure throughout South America (especially Brazil). In addition, China’s trading partnerships with countries throughout the hemisphere are creating an opportunity for Latin America and the Caribbean to play the U.S. and China off against each other to their benefit. Similar to when the Soviet Union challenged US global leadership.
At the Summit, Biden blamed former president Donald Trump for the deterioration of relationships with the Americas, and promised that things would be different. But excluding countries from the summit was proof that absolutely nothing had changed. Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who attended the summit in his president’s place, said the decision to not invite Cuba has set the summit back a decade; Belize’s Prime Minister called it “inexcusable” that all the countries of the Americas had not been invited thereby deminishing and the power of the summit. Argentine President Alberto Fernández said that the rules of future summits should be changed to prevent nations from being excluded.
Instead of acknowledging that he could easily negotiate an end of the war in Ukraine, and abandon his preoccupation with regime change in Russia, and immediately end global inflation. Biden blamed Russia’s war in Ukraine, oil companies, shipping conglomerates and Republicans, for inflation, insisting that he was doing everything within his power to curb inflation.
When asked by ABC’s late-night host, Jimmy Kimmel, why he did not use executive orders to address major issues, he responded: “I don’t want to emulate Trump’s abuse of the constitution, constitutional authority.” Biden seems out of touch with reality; inflation is decimating American families, as the price of gas and food skyrockets as stock markets crashed, revealing that the country might be in recession. However, Biden refuses to use executive orders, and instead focuses on regime change in Russia, and not inviting critical countries to summits.
Organizing summits that focus on Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable future for the hemisphere, without the capability to deliver results is disingenuous. America is the most inequitable country in the world, it cannot solve its own internal inequalities and its foreign policy is designed to benefit America and multinational corporations. America lacks the moral authority to initiate this change in the Americas.
America, the World Bank and the IMF offer structural adjustment programs that forces countries to sell off their natural resources, reduce public budgets, reduce social spending and reduce employment in government services. China offers to totally fund projects that the host government has determined will build the country’s infrastructure and generate revenues to repay China’s loan. Like all loans they must be paid, it is up to the governments of borrowing countries to manage these projects after completion to repay the loan.
President Biden and leaders of Latin American countries signed a new agreement to confront the consequences of mass migration, with pledges to allow more people fleeing political and economic strife to cross their borders. The US has committed to taking 20,000 refugees in the next 2 years, and approve 11,500 visas for seasonal workers from Central America and Haiti.
However, Biden expects that all countries in the region take “more responsibility” for those who are displaced. This is totally irresponsible, the US through regime change and its continuous interference in Haiti and Latin America, has created this massive displacement. Trump’s attempt at regime change in Venezuela has displaced over 6 million Venezuelans, and Biden’s decision to maintain Trump’s policy in the region has amplified the problem. To quote former Secretary Colin Powell, “You break it, you own it.” It is Biden and the US who broke it, they must take responsibility and fix it and not expect the struggling economies of the Americas to shoulder this economic burden.
(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)