The Americas faces many situations — climate change, drug trafficking, violence, poverty, threats to workers’ rights, threats to indigenous rights, femicide, and the list goes on. Many of these issues were, in some form or another, set to be discussed or touched upon at the Summit of the Americas, which ends today in Los Angeles, USA.
The US, under the guise of being the host nation has seen it fit to exclude Nicaragua, Cuba, and Venezuela from the summit.
This action has been condemned by many nations, ranging from Mexico and Bolivia who have stated that their heads of state would not attend as a result, to St Vincent whose prime minister had stated that he would not attend unless those three nations were included.
All of this, naturally, had seen Caricom becoming involved. In the beginning, there was a threat to boycott as a bloc unless Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were included but eventually the idea of a boycott was left up to individual nations.
In all of this Jamaica remained silent and this week we were told that our prime minister had left for the summit.
This is disappointing, as has been noted by statesmen and commentators, the issues of the region cannot be resolved if we exclude not just three countries from the region but three countries that play such an important role in their various subsectors within our region.
The inevitable reasons that will be given for attending this event, even after this insulting move, will be something along the lines of the US being our largest trade partner, that we are a “democracy” while they are “autocracies” or that we are fearful of “retribution”. Those excuses, however, do not hold water when viewed deeply and reek of nothing more than cowardice. They are too cowardly to stand up to the US and too cowardly to be straightforward with either their people or the nations they are abandoning.
They are attending, not for any of the reasons given above, but to bow before the empire because they have vested financial interests in the US and simply put, they are enthralled with the idea and ideologies emanating from that region.
Our leaders are fickle, cowards, and two-faced. They will, on one hand, nationalise Venezuelan assets in PetroJam, stop recognising the legitimate president of that nation — all down to US pressure — but then beg them for oil when it becomes obvious that the Russian Ukrainian conflict decimates the energy market. They have no issue accepting Cuban doctors at knock down rates, scholarships for students to study in Cuba and accepting Cuban agricultural assistance, but concrete solidarity is not forthcoming, short of the symbolic vote at the UN each year.
This summit, without Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua is a sham. Key topics will not be able to be dealt with as most of those attending will be demanding the normalisation of relations between the three excluded nations and the US. If no real substantive issues are being dealt with, we must then ask why are we attending? I highly doubt that it is to plead the cause on behalf of our three excluded brethren.
Once the arguments over the exclusions are completed and the following non-productive discussions on regional matters are had there will inevitably be a breakaway group probably consisting of the dying Lima group that will have private discussions, release communique’s condemning the excluded three. Jamaica has taken part in meetings like this before. We, along with Haiti and St Lucia, broke with Caricom and sided with the Lima group over the Venezuelan crisis during the Trump Administration. We have been deafeningly silent on the slow attempted strangulation of Nicaragua by the US, have not recognised Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela but ponder begging for oil and salivate at the prospect of a renewed Petro-Caribe, and do nothing of substance like engaging in real trade with Cuba even though their best and brightest live among us doing work that we can’t find locals to do because the pay is so paltry.
This Summit of the Americas will achieve nothing of note. It is and will go down in the annals of history as one of the final attempts by a fast-dying hegemon to retain regional supremacy and it is doomed to fail. The problems of the Americas, like the rest of the world, are massive and the exclusion of the three nations from a meeting aimed at solving regional problems shows us that the US has learned nothing and retains the same ideology which sees us as subservient and them being the masters.
We as a nation have serious choices to make as it relates to what road we will take, both regionally and internationally. No one is saying cut all ties with the US, they are and will remain — due to geography — our most important trade partner. That, however, should not mean that we give up our independence when it comes to foreign policy.
Regional issues which have, in the main, been caused or sustained by the US such as food insecurity, economic instability, the proliferation of drugs, and the inevitable violence that comes with it cannot be solved with the US dictating things and not listening. We have a lot to learn from Nicaragua, the only central American nation to weather the storms of both the 2008 crash and the COVID slump, seeing no mass exodus of people and having the ability to feed itself. We as a nation have much to learn from them as it relates to national security. They, unlike the other Central American countries, have no violence to speak of and people actually sleep with doors unlocked.
We have much to learn from Cuba and Venezuela, and we in turn have much to offer them. If we don’t want it and don’t want to engage in regional cooperation, fine no problem we can argue over that point but at least come out and say it.
This playing both sides off each other wins us nothing. The silence while we actively carry out US regional policies breeds animosity and confusion. We must, in the end, make clear our position, understanding that it will piss some people off and cost us for a while, but such is diplomacy.