VII Summit of the Americas – Symbolism vs Substance

Irony of history – today is 13 April. The day in 2002 when the late President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez was restored to the Presidency to which he was democratically and unanimously elected, after a failed coup attempt on 11 March, 2002…

So now. How was the VII Summit of the Americas? Let’s see. No official declaration, yet again – though there would be a consensus declaration from the Summit of the Peoples. So, then, what resulted from this confabulation of leaders at the Summit of the Americas?

For the US, the raison d’être of attending achieved: Symbolism, a handshake between Raul Castro and Barack Obama – cameras clicking and US talking heads clucking. And that would be followed by now predictable and tiresome rhetoric, with unfulfilled promises – the US President had come yet again, empty handed but laden with platitudes, to the surprise of very few.

Again, in 2012 at the VI Summit of the Americas, even the President of Colombia, as others then, had sternly warned the US (and Canada) that the non-appearance of Cuba in 2015 would mean the absence of a host of other countries at the VII Summit.

So the overall evaluation? We let Prof Juan Cole explain the justified scepticism of the Latin and Caribbean countries toward the US, given its rather unsavoury track record in the region. His article, US History of Coup-Making Overshadows Obama’s Outreach to Iran, Latin American Left, lays out the facts, facts astutely avoided by the corporate MSM. Couple excerpts,

Obama had to promise not to engage in any further attempts at a coup in Cuba because the USA has been in the coup business for a very long time, as part of the way it has run its empire. Some observers count 51 US military or covert interventions in Latin America since 1890. Quite apart from the Cold War covert ops, the US intervened militarily in Cuba no less than four times in the late 19th and first third of the twentieth century.

Then, Obama also had a sidebar meeting with President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, in which he apparently tried to calm him down by promising that Washington was not trying to get up a coup against him or overthrow his government, and did not see him as a threat.

Of course, with regard to Venezuela, few can forget that on 09 March, 2015, the very US President had declared Venezuela an ‘extraordinary…threat’ to the security of the US. And his Secretary of State would, only a few months before, issue threats to the Venezuelan government – same Secretary of State who would state the Western Hemisphere is in the US backyard? (President Correa of Ecuador would, at the same Summit address that business of being the US backyard.)

Trust? In some cynical but anticipated misdirection the US President would attempt to mollify other leaders with one of those ‘nostra culpa’, Obama: There are Dark Chapters in Our Past, Couple excerpts from the teleSUR report,

During the First Plenary Session of the Seventh Summit of the Americas, which began on Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama claimed the U.S. was committed “to building a new era of cooperation between countries.”

President Obama went on to acknowledge the inconsistences of human rights practices by the U.S. government stating, “The application by the United States of human rights has not always been congruent and I am very aware of the fact that there are dark chapers in our own history, when we haven’t fulfilled the principles and ideals according those on which our country was founded.”

On this ‘new era of cooperation’ – an irony. The US President had just traveled from Jamaica where he sought to dissuade Caricom countries from benefiting from the PetroCaribe programme of Venezuela, just as his vice-President had been attempting earlier when he had invited Caribbean countries to a conference in Washington, DC, a conference arranged with the Atlantic Research Council and other entities. Yet no concerted attempt to assist a Jamaica in dire economic straits.

Yet another irony, not missed by many: the US has its list of countries that sponsor ‘terrorism’, it list of countries that commit ‘human rights abuses’. In that regard, to visit that area of Prof Cole’s expertise we can point merely to Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Then we can return to occupied Guantanamo, without mentioning other countries of Latin America and Operation Condor. Thus, the obvious question the US President should have anticipated: Why is the US not on any list? ‘(D)ark chapters in our history’ – indeed.

Among the major revelations of the VII Summit and positive signs of progress, more so than from the VI Summit in Cartagena, are the presence of Cuba as demanded by most countries at the VI, except for the US (and Canada); the near unanimous support for both Cuba and Venezuela; and the ascendance in strength of, and respect for, many more of these countries, and the continuing, yet wholly avoidable, decline in influence of, and respect for, the US (and Canada). Standing out among the respected leaders would be Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador; Evo Morales, President, Bolivia; Nicolás Maduro, President Venezuela; and Raúl Castro, President of Cuba.

That flawed performance of the US President, who has continually failed to seize and act on so many opportunities since the V Summit of the Americas, would seem to confirm that acerbic observation of the scholar, Cornel West,

It’s a sad thing. It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin.

 As the rest of the world continues to move on, ever under threat but alert…
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