A Tale of Two Summits

A Tale of Two Summits

The two summits were held in the same city at the same time but could not be otherwise more different.

Last week (June 8-10) there were two summits in Los Angeles, California: the Summit of the Americas hosted by the US State Department and the Peoples Summit hosted by US and international activist organizations. The two summits were held in the same city at the same time but could not be otherwise more different.

Summit of SOME of the Americas

Begun in 1994, in the heyday of US international dominance, the Summit of the Americas is officially a function of the Organization of American States. It is meant to coordinate and consolidate US economic, political and cultural interests. The first summit, held in Miami, served this goal well. The Soviet Union had broken up, severely hurting allies such as Cuba. Neo-liberalism was on the march, even in countries such as Nicaragua where the Sandinistas had been voted out of power. The US had recently invaded Panama, making a murderous example of any country or leader that defied US dictates.

Since 1994, there have been Summits of the Americas every three or four years. The summits in Canada (2001) and Argentina (2005) had large anti-summit protests against capitalist globalization. In Panama in 2015, Cuba was invited to the summit for the first time after a group of countries threatened to boycott the summit if Cuba was again excluded. President Obama met and shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro. There was widespread agreement and pleasure at the US beginning to normalize relations with Cuba.

In 2018, the US hostility to Cuba resumed under President Trump. The White House administration referred to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela as a “troika of tyranny”.

The policy of exclusion continues under the Biden administration and this became a major feature of the just concluded Summit of the Americas. Despite threats to boycott the gathering by many Latin American and Caribbean presidents, the US chose to exclude Cuban, Nicaragua and Venezuela. This resulted in seven country presidents choosing not to attend: Mexico, Bolivia, Honduras, St Vincent, Antigua, Guatemala, El Salvador. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) said simply, “There cannot be a summit of the Americas if all the countries of the American continent do not participate. Or there can be, but …. it is just a continuation of the old policy of interventionism, or disrespect of nations and their peoples.”

As it turned out, the absence of three excluded and seven allied leaders became a predominant feature of the Summit. The ghost of the ten hung over all events. The summit accomplished little with the lack of preparation being compared to a “privileged but lazy student” who does not prepare for a test. The Atlantic analyzed the situation: “The Summit of the Americas, hosted this year by Joe Biden, offers a measure of how far the U.S. has fallen.” The attendance was small and resolutions filled with platitudes with little substance. Criticisms of the US exclusion of countries were openly aired.

The NY Times described the Summit by quoting a former Mexican ambassador who said many countries are “challenging U.S. influence, because U.S. influence has been diminishing in the continent.”

At the Summit of the Americas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and OAS leader Luis Almagro spoke at a panel about ” Journalistic Freedom”. Journalist Walter Smolarek exposed the farce as he boldly confronted Almagro because of his complicity in the 2019 Bolivian coup and more.

There was a plea from many countries to get beyond conflict and cold war, to genuinely work together to address the looming and already dangerous results of climate change.

The Summit of the Americas was expensive. Just the LA police security cost over $15 million.

Peoples Summit 2022

Two miles away from the Summit of the Americas, the Peoples Summit was held at the Los Angeles Technical Trade College. The Peoples Summit included art and poster pavilion, a huge hall for panel discussions and speeches, and an outdoor pavilion featuring dozens of activist organizations and craftspeople. There was live music and dancing later at night. Over a thousand people attended and spirits were high.

The complex affair was organized by over ten convening organizations. These included the Answer Coalition, International Peoples Assembly, CodePink and unions SEIU 721 and AFT 1521. There were over a hundred individuals providing support and organization for the event. Many activists flew or drove to Los Angeles from across the US. In contrast with the Summit of the Americas , the Peoples Summit operated on a shoestring based on volunteers.

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