Summit of the
Americas: an uncomfortable exercise
UP until a little over one month
ago, it was barely known that a regional summit of
heads of state and government in the American
hemisphere is to take place in Cartagena, Colombia
this April. While it was scheduled some time ago,
and has been planned for months, the meeting was not
publicized until the 11th Summit of the Bolivarian
Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA)
denounced the illegitimate exclusion of Cuba from
Reviewing what has been written and
said about the Cartagena Summit, the only news about
it has focused on Cuba’s exclusion. Does the event
not have any other mission?
Since these regular meetings began
in 1994, at the initiative of U.S. President Bill
Clinton, their invariable characteristic has been
the exclusion of Cuba and to serve as a forum for
Washington authorities to pay a social visit to the
other Latin American and Caribbean leaders, and
those of Canada. Outside of these two attributes,
the summits have few results to show.
In the Quebec Summit of April 2001,
with the sole exception of Venezuelan President Hugo
Chávez, attending leaders committed their nations to
the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a
neocolonial subordination project which dramatically
collapsed in Mar del Plata just four years later.
Latin America and the Caribbean have
advanced a great deal since then and have
intentionally directed efforts toward their own
project of integration and coordination, without
exclusions of any kind. As the fruit of important
political changes and a more legitimate
representation of the interests of its peoples, the
region is consolidating its independence and
promoting the recently founded Community of Latin
American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
It is therefore worth asking what
Washington will have to offer in Cartagena and what
it has fulfilled in terms of its renewed commitment
to the region announced in Port of Spain three years
ago, plus the purpose of these meetings, the only
lesson of which is that the territories north of the
Rio Bravo are experiencing realities and sharing
priorities which are increasingly distant from those
of the nations we inhabit south of this border.
The message of Port of Spain in 2009
was a clear one and the United States acknowledged
it: the U.S. government’s anti-Cuba policy must
change if it aspires to normal relations with this
rich, vast and vigorous region. The economic
blockade has been rejected and the attempt to
separate Cuba from the region is an illegitimate
Cuba has not asked to be allowed to
attend, nor is it its place to do so. It has said
that if invited under the same conditions as the
others, it will be present and will participate
seriously, in a constructive spirit and with the
solidarity which characterizes its foreign policy;
that it will clearly state its positions and
contribute to decisions. This would not be because
of any great confidence in the event’s impact, but
to help the Latin America and Caribbean effort to
promote regional priorities at every opportunity,
including before the United States.
The U.S. attitude has generated an
uncomfortable situation. Its obstinate incapacity to
relate to Cuba in a regional forum has led it to use
a veto and act against the will of all other
countries of a region where the country enjoys
legitimacy and prestige. On doing so, it is
expressly disqualifying the meeting.
This prompts reminiscences of the
period in which what took place in many of our
republics was dictated from Washington.
It is a fact that having the
Organization of American States (OAS) as an
institutional supporter of these summits contributes
to such reminiscences and the consequent discomfort.
These Summits of the Americas are not called by the
OAS, there is a mere bureaucratic link, according to
experts on the subject. Thus there is no relation
between Cuba’s rejection of this discredited
institution of the past and the Latin American and
Caribbean demand for Cuba’s presence in Cartagena.
However, the burden of the OAS, plus
the effective U.S. veto on Cuba’s participation,
denote an anachronism which is difficult to hide.
After the clear warning issued by ALBA on February
2, it has become impossible to keep comfortably
under wraps an event which was tending toward
There are certain questions which
What has become of the promise of
change toward the region affirmed by the U.S.
President in Trinidad & Tobago, three years ago now?
Will the Summit of the Americas be
able to express a firm commitment to social justice
and solidarity, with respect for sovereign equality
among states and the principle of non-intervention?
Will it support Argentina’s full
sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands?
Will it defend the right of
indigenous peoples to chew coca leaves?
Will it repudiate the mistreatment
of migrant workers?
Will it commit to the region’s
general and complete disarmament?
Will it be able to condemn terrorism
in all its forms and manifestations, as well as
governments who protect its perpetrators?
Together with Latin American and
Caribbean nations, will it be able to reject coups
d’état and the use of financial and media resources
to undermine and destabilize governments committed
to social justice and the demands of their peoples?
Will it condemn the use or threat of
use of economic measures to castigate sovereign
This concerns political positions
which the 33 sovereign nations of Our America have
succeeded in formulating for themselves, as
reflected in the CELAC Summit in Caracas last
December, and which demonstrate the most legitimate
thinking of their peoples.