The summit held in Los Angeles on 8-10 June faces important regional challenges, such as migration and the economy, under the "hallmark of democracy" that leaves out the continent's non-democratic regimes

Democratic Americas meet at the IX Summit of the Americas

photo_camera REUTERS/LAUREN JUSTICE - U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, United States, 8 June 2022

After years of clashes between Latin America and the administration of former US president Donald Trump, the holding of the IX Summit of the Americas on Yankee soil seemed to be the best opportunity for Washington to promote a new regional roadmap. However, far from the truth, this edition - held between Wednesday 8 and Friday 10 June in the Californian city of Los Angeles and marked by an extensive agenda of problems to be addressed - was overshadowed by a long list of high-level absentees. 

However, the meeting was officially opened by President Joe Biden's remarks at the Microsoft Theater, following a musical performance by Cuban-American producer Emilio Estefan, and addresses by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, California Governor Gavin Newson, and Vice President of the Biden Administration Kamala Harris. As well as the president of Peru, Pedro Castillo, who attended the meeting without his usual hat as the highest representative of the host country of the previous edition of the summit, in 2018. 

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Democracy "is a hallmark" of the American continent, were the words of Joe Biden, who avoided making direct reference to the controversial absence of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Uninvited because they are considered "undemocratic" countries that "violate human rights". Democracy "is under assault around the world", and all Latin American countries that share this system of government should "increase their cooperation" and "commit to its promotion and defence", said the White House leader during his inaugural speech, which was briefly interrupted by the shouts of an activist "against climate change". 

The 9th Summit of the Americas faces an agenda filled with many and diverse "regional challenges". An agenda that is constantly growing: climate crisis, energy and food insecurity, strong migratory waves, inflation, corruption, etc., and which only has three plenary sessions of the heads of government to deal with them. "This platform represents a valuable management tool for moving from words to deeds," said Pedro Castillo, highlighting the importance of the "common heritage" meeting, which has been held for almost three decades.

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In economic matters, Joe Biden's main proposals were clear: a reform of the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank) to promote the role of the private sector in Latin American development, and an Alliance for Economic Prosperity in the Americas, based on existing trade agreements. These initiatives are intended to counterbalance the growing economic and commercial power of China and Russia in the region. 

"Biden seeks regional articulation on cooperation issues that link both pragmatic US interests, such as migration control, with stopping Chinese influence in the region and regaining US economic influence. These are the interests of their realpolitik," explained historian Armando Chaguaceda in El Mundo. 

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A summit full of absences 

However, the original purposes of the Summits of the Americas - which demonstrated US leadership in its "backyard", and which allowed Washington to influence and reactivate the Latin American economy and control the waves of migration - may be in the balance after the holding of one of the Summits of the Americas with the least "Americas" to date

Washington's refusal to invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela aroused great discontent among some Latin American leaders, such as Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Bolivia's Luis Arce and Honduras' Xiomara Castro, who opted to send their respective foreign ministers instead. To make matters worse, poor relations between the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala also led to the absence of Nyib Bukele and Alejandro Giammattei, respectively. 

"We must all work, but we must all be there", denounced the Honduran foreign minister, Eduardo Enrique Reina, while his Mexican counterpart lashed out at the Organisation of American States (OAS), which he described as "exhausted", proposing a "re-founding" of relations between the countries of the Americas.

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On the other hand, the idea of inviting Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's representative, whom the US recognises as the country's interim president, was discarded after learning the opinion "of other governments with different views", explained Juan González, the Biden Administration's main advisor on Latin America, a few days ago. This did not prevent the US president from talking to him hours before the summit began. 

The inter-American migration crisis, central point of the meeting

Despite the absence of the leaders of many of the countries of origin of the main migratory flows to the United States (such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba and Venezuela), the Summit of the Americas is expected to give rise, this Friday, to the "Los Angeles Declaration on Migration", in which concrete commitments to manage migratory flows are expected, and which could involve Spain and Canada, according to the White House. 

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Migration, one of the most pressing problems facing the continent, has been worsening in recent months. Last weekend Mexico, which shares more than 3 200 kilometres of border with the US, reported a year-on-year migration growth of 89 per cent, while on Monday a migrant caravan of more than 15 000 people from 20 different countries - fleeing gang violence, insecurity and drug trafficking - tried to leave the Mexican state of Chiapas for the US. 

This declaration, based on "a new approach" in which all nations of the continent "take responsibility", "will represent a commitment by all to find a reasonable solution and improve stability", Joe Biden said.

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra

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