The ninth Summit of the Americas begins Monday in Los Angeles, but as of Sunday the Biden administration was unable to confirm the state leaders who will attend. The disorder is a metaphor for Biden’s foreign policy in the region.
There hasn’t been an America Summit on US soil since the original took place in Miami in 1994. The government seems to have reckoned that a meeting in Southern California after 28 years would be an inevitable success. That was his first summit mistake – but not his last.
A high-level meeting of this nature should reflect US strength and Washington’s commitment to Western ideals of freedom, prosperity and security. President Biden’s Americas jamboree signals the opposite: US weakness in the face of threats of a boycott by opponents of democratic capitalism and freedom of expression.
Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua are not just dictatorships. They are allies of Vladimir Putin, practicing his policies – imprisoning, torturing, exiling and sometimes executing opponents. Spreading terror at home is not enough; they are exporting revolution, fueling regional instability and destroying freedom.
The summit gives the US an opportunity to speak out against these murderous regimes with moral clarity while promoting democracy and the rule of law. But with a red tide sloshing through Latin America, the rudderless Biden administration — which aims to be popular with progressives — appears lost at sea.
A handful of countries, led by Mexico, have said their leaders will not attend unless Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua attend the summit. Some of these countries are irrelevant. Does anyone care if the prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a country that’s raiding Venezuela for oil and trembling at the Cuban regime, doesn’t show up?
Others could be expected to support Mr. Biden. At the top of that list is Honduran President Xiomara Castro, wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in 2009 for breaking the constitution. Democrats backed his lawlessness at the time. Since Ms. Castro took office in January, the US has leaned back in support of the far-left power couple, who are taking their marching orders from Havana.
These include Brazil and Guatemala, both democratically elected centre-right governments. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro – whom Mr Biden has snubbed since taking office – originally said he would not go. After the US offered him a bilateral meeting with Mr. Biden, he relented. But the damage to what should be common ground isn’t easily undone.
Guatemalan center-right President Alejandro Giammattei is also upset because the US has harassed his Attorney General. She is investigating corruption allegations against former prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval – a close ally of former US Ambassador to Guatemala Todd Robinson. Mr. Sandoval is a fugitive from justice and now resides in the United States. The Biden administration has attempted to drop the investigation by undermining the Attorney General’s credibility. This politicization of the rule of law makes it difficult for Guatemala to improve its judicial system. Still, the Foreign Ministry says Mr Giammattei can attend the summit.
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was recently in Havana, insists he will not go unless the three dictators are invited. The correct US response to this threat is to declare that the summit has standards.
Instead, in a press briefing on Wednesday, neither Juan Gonzalez, director of the National Security Council for the western hemisphere, nor Brian Nichols, deputy secretary of state for the western hemisphere, could say whether the government would give in to Mr López Obrador’s demands. Mr. Gonzalez stressed that the government wanted to be “respectful” of Mexico’s position. It sounds like President Trump was talking about Mr. Putin.
On the same call, Mr. Gonzalez pledged an economic agenda that will be built on free trade agreements. He was quick to add US priorities of justice, equality and climate – in case anyone mistakenly thought development was a serious Biden goal. And don’t look now, look at Honduras recently pampered by the administration turned around Reforms to support an open, transparent and competitive electricity market to ensure that the energy required to become a target for nearshoring capital is not available. But no worry. Vice President Kamala Harris continues to investigate the causes of migration in the region.
Not much is done on these peaks. But they can symbolize a shared belief in human dignity and hope. Mr. Biden missed that opportunity even before it opened.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.
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https://www.wsj.com/articles/a-summit-to-nowhere-in-the-americas-cuba-nicaragua-venezuela-invite-biden-11654458687 A Summit to Nowhere in the Americas