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Óscar Abraham Raya López

Decline of American influence on the continent? The Ninth Summit of the Americas

- The consequences of the Joe Biden administration's decision represent more than simple absences.

Decline of American influence on the continent? The Ninth Summit of the Americas

The Summit of the Americas was conceived in 1994 by the Clinton administration with the objective of promoting economic growth and prosperity in the entire American continent based on different common values, including democratic ones (U.S. Department of State, 2022, par. 16). Throughout its eight editions, with the ninth held from June 6 to 10 of this year in Los Angeles, California, the Summit of the Americas has been characterized by the attendance of 35 American countries.

Before 1994 there were summits that brought together a large part of the continent, see that of Uruguay in 1967, however, the countries did not fully attend, a situation that was resolved with the Summit of the Americas and the integration of the entire hemisphere (U.S. Department of State, 2022, par. 16). However, it seems that the current edition of said event, the ninth, will be very different from its predecessors in terms of participants. Following a statement in March 2022 by Juan González, principal director of the National Security Council for the Western Hemisphere of the United States, about the lack of inclusion of Cuban officials and presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua in the Summit, many Latin American governments, mainly from the left, have raised their voices to show their discontent about said exclusion (Kurmanaev & Nicas, 2022, par. 7-10).

Consequently, some heads of state established their position on the issue, among them is the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In a press conference on May 10, López Obrador declared that he would not attend the Summit of the Americas if all governments were excluded and not invited, in addition to affirming that he would do so in the form of a protest to request unity despite the differences that exist between nations (Animal Político, 2022, par. 1-4).

Shortly after the ninth edition of the Summit of the Americas took place, the absences became a challenge for the Biden administration, calling into question the North American influence in the region. However, to clearly understand the conflict, it is important to understand what is done at said event, analyze the statements made at its 2018 Summit and how Latin America has changed since then.

“A broad and inclusive forum”: How does the Summit of the Americas work?

The Summit, and its stakeholder forums, promote cooperation toward inclusive economic growth and prosperity throughout the region, based on a common respect for democracy, fundamental freedoms, dignity of work, and free enterprise (U.S. Department of State, 2022, p. 13). The participants are mostly heads of state and government, and representatives of various government departments of each country, such as foreign affairs or the economy. However, the Summit of the Americas also receives other types of actors such as civil society organizations, representatives of indigenous communities, civic leaders, businessmen, young entrepreneurs, and heads of international organizations (U.S. Department of State, 2022, p. 14).

On the other hand, although the general objective is always cooperation to encourage inclusive economic growth, each edition of the Summit has a distinctive main theme. The current one seeks to have a more open and diversified agenda, including even more civil society organizations and the private sector, maintaining three official forums, among which stands out "the fourth CEO Summit of the Americas" (U.S. Department of State, 2022, par. 9-13). While its 2018 version based in Lima, Peru, completely different issues were handled: the fight against corruption and the promotion of democracy.

“All against Venezuela”: Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru

The eighth edition of the Summit of the Americas in Lima focused all its attention on Venezuela, a country whose president was not invited to the meeting and which, except for Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba, does not have many allies in the region (DW, 2018, par. 1). Among the final results of the Summit, “The Lima Commitment” was conceived. This document includes 57 agreements grouped into seven thematic axes, these being:

  1. The strengthening of democratic governance;
  2. financing of electoral campaigns;
  3. prevention of corruption in public works, contracting and public purchases;
  4. international legal cooperation;
  5. transparency, access to information, whistleblower protection, respect for human rights and freedom of expression;
  6. Strengthening of inter-American anti-corruption mechanisms;
  7. Follow-up and report on agreements (Colombian Foreign Ministry, 2018, par. 10-11).

In addition to that document, the Eighth Summit of the Americas was characterized by constant disqualifications of the Nicolas Maduro regime. The countries with the most explosive statements were Argentina and Chile, reaching the point of affirming that Caracas condemned many of its citizens to starvation and death; Brazil and Mexico managed a slightly more neutral position, although they were concerned about Venezuela (DW, 2018, par. 1-4).

For his part, Nicolas Maduro tried to go to the Summit to defend the country from him, however, it was impossible for him to carry out said action. The Venezuelan president was banned from the event, leaving only his only allies in the region, Cuba and Bolivia, thus consecrating the end of the so-called "Bolivarian era", in which several Latin American presidents expressed a critical position regarding the United States (Cué & Fowks, 2018, par. 1). However, four years after that event, it seems that said era is not completely dead due to the recent shows of support for the Venezuelan regime from various countries that attacked it in 2018, such as Mexico, Argentina or Chile.

Which countries joined the call for “non-assistance”?

As mentioned above, Mexico is the country that led the movement to support Venezuela to demand its invitation to the ninth Summit of the Americas. Other countries that joined the protest were Bolivia and Honduras. The president of the Central American country, Xiomara Castro, declared that "if all the nations are not there, it is not the Summit of the Americas," while her Bolivian counterpart, Luis Alberto Acre, stated that "if the exclusion of sister nations persists, Bolivia would not participate" (Carrillo, 2022, par. 3-5).

Likewise, the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, maintains a similar position. The ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda in the United States, Ronald Sanders, announced that CARICOM would consider absenting himself from the Summit of the Americas if the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua is finalized, especially if Juan Guaidó is invited as the official Venezuelan representative (teleSUR[a], 2022, par. 1-6). However, with the exception of Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis, all the rulers of the Member States of the Community participated in the Summit.

On the other hand, the Chilean government, headed by Gabriel Boric, managed a position of support, but maintaining limits that led to its participation. The Chilean Foreign Minister, Antonia Urrejola, explained that the American continent needs to dialogue beyond its differences to avoid unprecedented fragmentation, however, the presence of Chile and its head of state was not subject to the participation of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela (Prensa Latina and AFP, 2022, par. 2-6).

Argentina, like Chile, maintained a position in favor of a real inclusion in the Summit of the Americas without meaning its absence from the event. Alberto Fernández, Argentine president, declared that he believes that all the countries of the region should be invited, thus avoiding exclusions that prevent all the voices of the hemisphere from being heard (Martín, 2022, par. 4-12). On the other hand, the ambivalent behavior of Brazil, derived from Jair Bolsonaro's cold relationship with US President Joe Biden, with whom he had not contacted since he took office, ended with the presence of the South American country at the Summit (Álvarez, 2022, par. 5).

On the other hand, the Venezuelan administration thanked the support for their country. Through Twitter, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Carlos Faría, thanked the position of the President of Mexico after he advocated for his participation in the Summit of the Americas (teleSUR \ [b ], 2022, par. 1). Regarding Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega stated that neither his person nor his government is interested in participating in the Summit, also declaring that he needs to make his country respectful and avoid begging to participate (García, 2022, par. 1-7). Taking the above into account, despite having had an invitation, the Nicaraguan president would have chosen not to attend.

Thus, the countries that were absent from the 9th Summit of the Americas were Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, since they were not invited; Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, for reasons of a political nature; and Uruguay because its president, Luis Lacalle Pou, tested positive for Covid-19 days before the meeting was held. (CNN Spanish, 2022).

US position

Because of all the controversy, the government headed by Joe Biden did not wait for his response. Shortly after López Obrador's statement, the White House spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, assured that they had not yet determined who would be invited (Suarez & Pozzebon, 2022, par. 7). Without confirming or disconfirming anything, the US government tried to ease the tense situation just weeks before the Summit with that statement and other indirect actions. In response to the disagreement, the White House announced plans to not only facilitate the sending of money to Cuba and the possibility of visiting that country, but it also eased various oil sanctions against Venezuela (Ordoñez, 2022, par. 13-14).

In the same way, a person close to the US president declared that several government agents of the Biden administration began to consider inviting Cuban representatives to the event to avoid a shameful boycott against the United States in the region (Sherwood & Spetalnick, 2022, par. 1). Although it should be remembered that the Caribbean country attended the level of head of state in the past editions of 2015, Panama, and 2018, Peru (Sherwood & Spetalnick, 2022, par. 3), the position of the host did not change, maintaining the resolution not to invite him to the Summit.

Despite the uncertainty that persisted even a few days before the Summit of the Americas took place in Los Angeles, the consequences of the decision made by the Biden administration represent more than simple absences. Various political analysts agree that the power of US influence in the region has decreased, a fact that can be glimpsed taking into account the decision of some leaders not to participate in one of the most important events on the continent and the efforts made by the United States to avoid it (Lissardy, 2022).

"The pendulum"

In this way, the support offered by several Latin American countries, see Mexico, Honduras, Bolivia, CARICOM, Chile and Argentina towards Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua has a reason for being: the ideology of their current governments. When the Summit of the Americas took place in 2018, the countries that now support Venezuela and its allies were controlled by governments of political parties other than the current ones, most of which were right-wing or center-right.

Perhaps the most notable example is Mexico. In 2018, Enrique Peña Nieto, president of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, still governed, and maintained a center-right position throughout his term, 2012-2018. For the ninth Summit, Mexico is governed by López Obrador with leftist ideologies. The same thing happened in Argentina and Chile. During the 8th Summit of the Americas, the previous countries were governed by Mauricio Macri and Sebastián Piñera respectively, both being right-wing. For the ninth edition, Argentina is governed by Alberto Fernández and Chile by Gabriel Boric, both presidents who consider themselves to be on the left. The previous situation reaffirms the Latin American "pendulum", a condition where the governments in each presidential election change their ideology and allies.

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Raya, Óscar. “¿Decadencia de la influencia estadounidense sobre el continente? La Novena Cumbre de las Américas.” CEMERI, 11 oct. 2022,