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The Biden administration has a great opportunity to emphasize that democracy is the gold standard political system in the Western Hemisphere. The 9th Summit of the Americas, which is to be held the week of June 6-10 in Los Angeles, California, was poised to exclude most of the continent’s non-democratic regimes. Certain Latin American leaders objected to the prohibition of the dictatorships in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from the event and stated that they would boycott the conference if this occurred. The overarching dilemma for Biden is whether he will placate the left and invite these notorious human rights violators or will the U.S. firmly defend stated principles that bind hemispheric cordiality based on the practice of consensual modes of governance and free societies.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Brian A. Nichols stated during a television program on May 2 that “Cuba, Nicaragua, [and] the Maduro regime do not respect the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and therefore I don’t expect their presence.” When questioned on the specific case of Cuba, where during the 2015 Summit the Cuban dictator, Raul Castro, was invited, Nichols commented that, while it will ultimately be Biden’s prerogative, he believes “the president has been very clear about the presence of countries that by their actions do not respect democracy — they will not receive invitations.”
Jen Psaki on May 10 questioned the firmness of Nichols’ statement. During a White House briefing, the president’s press secretary said that “no invitations have been issued at this point.” What Biden’s media representative was suggesting, was that the Summit’s door was still open to hemispheric dictatorships. The White House’s apparent about-face reflects a reaction to the Mexican president’s affirmation that if the three autocratic regimes were excluded, he would boycott the event.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador took this public stance, coincidently after having just concluded an official visit to communist Cuba. On the imprisoned island, he met with Cuban dictators Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel. In addition to the usual diatribe against the American embargo on the Castro-Communist regime and other victimization follies, the Mexican president was awarded a dictatorial-sponsored medal. It is interesting to note that this same “distinction” has been bestowed upon Saddam Hussein, Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chávez, Daniel Ortega, Nicolás Maduro, Nicolae Ceaușescu, Muammar Gaddafi, Evo Morales, Erich Honecker, Viktor Yanukovych, and Xi Jinping, among others. All have been serial offenders of gross human rights violations. AMLO, a staunch collaborator of continental socialism, followed the script he received from Havana well.
Luís Arce, Bolivia’s figurative president, announced on Wednesday, May 11, that he will also boycott next month’s Summit if the three socialist dictatorships are not invited. It is worthy to point out that the Bolivian regime should also have been on Biden’s list of countries to exclude. Evo Morales has instituted the São Paulo Forum dictatorial prototype in this land-locked country. Its rigged elections, persecution of political opponents, and the absence of the rule of law annul any democratic credentials.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted many things. Two important factors stand out. The U.N. has proved to be worth little in solving seminal problems. This is because dictatorships sit alongside democracies and false equivalents are established. This moral inequality only serves tyranny. Organizations structured along with certain qualitative criteria, like NATO, for example, have offered a contrasting value. The Summit of the Americas was conceived, since its first meeting in Miami, Florida, in 1994, tightly linked to the democratic system of government. Its parent entity, the Organization of American States (OAS), was wholly founded on the premise that democracy was to be its exclusive model of sociopolitical exercise.
The OAS’s foundational charter preceded the U.N.’s Universal Human Rights Declaration by over seven months. In other words, many aspects of the OAS’ inherent principles were adopted in the U.N. document. Signed in Bogotá, Colombia on April 30, 1948, and amended in 1967, 1985, 1992, 1993, and 1997, the overriding innateness of the organism was freedom, liberal democracy, and representative governments. Its preamble states the belief “that the true significance of American solidarity and good neighborliness can only mean the consolidation on this continent, within the framework of democratic institutions, of a system of individual liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man.” It adds as one of its objectives, “to promote and consolidate representative democracy,” (Art.1, Sec. B). It heightens that “the solidarity of the American States and the high aims which are sought through it require the political organization of those States on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy,” (Art. 3, Sec. D). Let’s hope Biden upholds the Summit’s reason to be.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.