Boycott threats, questioned leadership, uncertain results: the IX Summit of the Americas, which the United States will host in two weeks for the first time since the inaugural meeting in 1994, runs the risk of being a fiasco, analysts warn.
The meeting, scheduled for June 6-10 in Los Angeles, was presented by US diplomacy as "President Joe Biden’s top priority event for the region"after his predecessor, Donald Trump, did not participate in the last meeting four years ago.
But Biden’s bid to build a future with his neighbors "sustainable, resilient and equitable"and thus counter China’s growing influence in the region, was overshadowed by the possibility of many empty seats.
"A boycott by a large group of leaders would be a black eye for the United States", Benjamin Gedan, deputy director of the Latin American Program at the Wilson Center, told AFP.
The Havana government denounced a month ago that they were leaving it out of the preparations. Cuba attended a Summit of the Americas for the first time in 2015, in Panama, within the framework of Washington’s rapprochement with Havana promoted by former President Barack Obama. And he was back in Lima in 2018.
But the Biden administration, which since January has signaled that the "commitment to democracy" would "a key factor of who is invited and who is not"said that he did not expect the presence of Cuba, nor of Nicaragua and Venezuela, since "They do not respect" the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter in force since 2001.
The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, replied then, unleashing the controversy: "If everyone is not invited (…) I would not go".
Their counterparts from Bolivia, Luis Arce; from Honduras, Xiomara Castro; and from Argentina, Alberto Fernández, as well as leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which brings together 14 countries, they also questioned his participation. Chile did not condition its assistance, but requested a call "as wide as possible".
In addition, the president of Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, whose government Washington accuses of obstructing anti-corruption investigations, has already announced that he will not attend, while his counterpart from Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, once very close to Trump and notoriously distant from Biden, indicated that "I was still deciding".
"Lack of ambition"
"A Summit of the Americas, without Brazil and Mexico, even for completely different reasons, is a failure", sentenced Jorge Castañeda, former Mexican foreign minister and professor at New York University (NYU), in statements to the Univisión network.
"President Biden and his team should have known these dilemmas were coming their way and I think they did not act accordingly."he pointed.
It also didn’t help that a high-level US delegation traveled to Caracas in March after Biden banned Russian oil imports over the Ukraine invasion, CSIS analysts Ryan Berg and Daniel Runde said, calling it a "ill-advised approach to the regime of Nicolás Maduro".
"The administration’s strategic error and message that democracy and human rights were of secondary importance to the dubious prospect of increased oil production opened the door for some in the region to decry US inconsistency and insist on the presence of dictators at the Summit"they wrote in a column in The Hill.
But in addition, they affirmed, the Biden administration "has completely failed to develop a set of policies that will attract the participation necessary to make the Summit of the Americas a success".
"The lack of ambition shown (…) has reduced the cost of defection for regional leaders", they held. And they urged Washington to make concrete proposals on free trade agreements, an increase in the capital of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and support in the recovery from the pandemic and in food security.
According to Gedan, a summit that brings together most of the region’s presidents but does not produce significant results would also be a "bad scenario".
"For many years, US presidents have warned Latin America about the downsides of doing business with China, but the White House has failed to offer serious alternatives."he claimed.
"The summit is an opportunity to show that the United States should be the preferred partner of the region"Held.
The vice president of the business forum Council of the Americas, Eric Farnsworth, who as an expert on Latin America will testify Thursday in a Senate committee on the IX Summit, agreed.
"The region seeks Washington’s leadership in economic recovery efforts, including expanding trade and investment"he told AFP.
"If the White House comes up with a meaningful agenda for regional cooperation, people will focus on that and all the pre-Summit maneuvering will be quickly forgotten."assured.