By Zhang Jieyu
The 9th Summit of the Americas, the first major home court diplomatic event hosted by the Biden administration, wrapped up in doom and gloom recently. America’s bullying behaviors both before and after the summit were widely criticized and rejected by Latin American countries, and the summit ended up having the least state leaders ever. That more and more Latin American countries are saying no to the US tolls the knell for its “Neo-Monroe Doctrine”.
Before the summit began, the US arbitrarily excluded the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela on the excuse that they were “non-democratic” leaders, prompting widespread doubts and objection from the Latin American and Caribbean countries. Presidents of Mexico, Bolivia, Honduras and Guatemala refused to attend, and members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) issued a joint statement to boycott this "imperialist event". Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in public that he refused to attend the summit because “this is to continue the old interventionist policies”. He asked the US to immediately stop sanctions, blockade, discrimination and other interventionist actions, and called on all American countries to stand together against exclusion. During the summit, leaders including Argentine President Fernández and Prime Minister of Belize Briceño condemned America’s discriminatory practices on the issue when giving their speeches.
The theme for this summit is “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future”, but the host country that practices “Monroe Doctrine” seemed only interested in achieving its own diplomatic goals, and didn’t present any substantial plan to address what people in the Latin American region are most urgently concerned about, such as COVID-19 vaccines and economic development. The Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity that Washington announced at the summit vowed to “strengthen our supply chains…foster innovation in both the public and private sectors…tackle the climate crisis…and give rise to high-quality jobs”. This glittery proposal, however, is neither backed by any data nor contains any details or commitments, and the part on the so-called immigrant protection is generally regarded as an attempt to pass the buck to Latin American countries. On the other hand, the US has spared no effort in smearing and blocking what’s really good for Latin America’s development and prosperity, such as the regional integration plan and the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Biden administration claimed to take the western hemisphere as vital in its national interests, stressing the Americas as the US’ core interest, whereas in his eyes, there is only the United States of America, instead of the states of America. A brief look back at history would show that the US, in the nearly 200 years after it put forth the Monroe Doctrine, made military interference in Latin American countries more than 30 times, forced its American-style democracy upon them, went about economic plundering without scruple, and even planned to overthrow their regimes. The piles of US-Latin American cooperation agreements are really just intended to turn the region into Washington’s strategic backyard, source of raw materials, destination of exports, and cultural colony. During the summit, Biden announced a US$ 645 million package to help Latin American countries ensure food security in the region and better enable them to cope with natural disasters and waves of immigrants and refugees. The figure posed a sharp contrast to the US$ 40 billion aid to Ukraine that quickly got through the US Congress. Such a huge gap between the strategic position and the promise of aid reflects the hypocrisy of US policy toward Latin America.
The structural conflict between the US and Latin America – the former trying to control the latter and the latter’s rejection of it – dates back a long time. Latin America entered a new election cycle in 2021. If leftist leaders win in the upcoming elections in Columbia and Brazil, the seven most populous Latin American countries will all be led by leftist governments, and that may forecast a period of major adjustments in the US-Latin American relations judging from Washington’s habit of drawing ideological lines. In the meantime, the mid-terms are also coming up in the US, and whether Biden administration is willing to up the ante to maintain its relations with Latin America is a big question mark.
The global situation is going through profound changes. The US’s attempt to take the summit as an opportunity to manipulate Latin America and reshape its hegemony in the western hemisphere met head-on blows. There are growing signs of the declining leadership and credibility of the US in the Latin American region, where its self-centrism and flagrant bullying just don’t work anymore.
(The author is from the Department for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, China Institute of International Studies)