Barack Obama listens to his Colombian and
at the Americas Summit in Cartagena, Colombia: Was the lack
progress at the summit a healthy reflection of how power in the
world is becoming more diffuse?
Blaming Washington: Why the Americas Summit was a Bust (El Pais, Spain)
“What do these two issues - drugs and Cuba - have in common? Both allowed
the summit’s participants to divert attention from their own failings and put
the spotlight on the United States. Why talk about repression in Cuba and
freedom of the press in Ecuador, populism in Argentina or militarization in Venezuela,
if we can talk about the United States?”
Two summits: Yalta, 1945, and Cartagena de Indias, 2012. At the first, three heads of
state were involved; at the second, thirty. At the first, Stalin, Churchill and
Roosevelt decided how they would divide the world among themselves. At the
second, the leaders spoke - and haven’t taken any decisions of consequence for
the people of the Americas. In a way, that is good. None of the presidents at the
summit, not even Barack Obama, concentrates as much power in his hands as the
three leaders at Yalta. To understand how much the world has changed, just read
the poetic official note from organizers of the Cartagena summit:
“The hummingbird flies fast and travels far. It is, perhaps,
the only species in the animal kingdom that travels across the continent with such
an impeccable manner of flight … it is a common denominator of the countries in
our hemisphere, from Alaska to Patagonia. For all these reasons, the figure of
a hummingbird with multi-colored wings has been chosen as the summit logo.” I wondered
to myself: “What would the logo of the Yalta conference have been?” And I smiled,
imagining the reaction of Stalin or Churchill had they read something like
this. Oh, yes, it is a different world.
On the other hand, one must acknowledge that the official
agenda of the Americas Summit was very promising. The heads of state spoke of poverty
and inequality, natural disasters, information technology, public safety and
the physical integration of the continent. All of these are valid issues. And
yet two important points have to be made.
The first is that no summit is needed to make progress in
these areas. There is a lot countries can do on their own, and indeed, a few
have made great progress. But alas, not all. And those
that continue in a state of stagnation are not stuck there because of their
neighbors. Their own heads of state, despite delivering fiery speeches at the
summit, are the cause of this lack of development. The second point is that these
issues were not the ones to receive the most attention, and no one expected to make
much progress on those that did: drugs and Cuba.
Independent of the summit, there is good news about drugs:
2012 will go down in history as the year in which the ban on thinking about
alternatives to the drug policies imposed by the United States was lifted. That
doesn’t mean that this clearly failed strategy will be abandoned. But yes, it
is now possible to explore other possibilities, and the fact that this happened
at Cartagena is a sign of progress.
And then there is Cuba. Several of the presidents are
furious that Cuba was not invited to participate in the Summit of the Americas.
For them, the fact that the forum is reserved for democratic countries is an irrelevant
And what do these two issues - drugs and Cuba - have in
common? Both allowed the summit’s participants to divert attention from their
own failings and put the spotlight on the United States. Why talk about
repression in Cuba and freedom of the press in Ecuador, populism in Argentina or
militarization in Venezuela, if we can talk about the United States?
What might have been an agenda with tangible consequences?
Here are two possible points:
1. Latin American disarmament. This is the most murderous
region on the planet. It suffers more gun-inflicted deaths than parts of the
world that are at war. Why don’t the presidents of the region use the summit (after
denouncing the U.S. for its criminal export of firearms) to promote a plan to
reduce the number of guns circulating so freely and decimating their people, particularly
the young? They could launch an ambitious initiative to organize and mobilize mothers,
unions, businesses, universities, media, artists and society in general, to
make Latin America a region with fewer guns. A naive notion, I know. But
perhaps more naïve is continuing to do nothing.
2. Immigration. I’m not referring to the dysfunctional
immigration policy of the United States, which must be reformed. But, while that
happens, why don’t the leaders of Latin America do something to improve the way
their countries treat foreign workers from neighboring states? When compared to
the cruelty and abuse to which poor immigrants are subjected to within Latin
America, the inacceptable policy of the United States toward undocumented
workers is a paragon of virtue.
Posted by Worldmeets.US
And these are only two issues. There are more. But they
won’t be discussed at these summits because that would mean looking within and
revealing some horrible truths to the world. That is why it is better to talk
about the Castro brothers and marijuana.
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