Foreign Policy Blogs

The Summit of Abandoned Policy

The Summit of Abandoned Policy

For United States citizens, policy developments in the Americas were always tied to the belief that the United States saw the region as their own geographical backyard. The ascent of the United States as a world power following the Spanish-American Wars and their relative economic stability compared to Europe following the First and Second World Wars turned them into a powerful hegemony in the Americas.

Balancing the hegemony of the United States through Soviet ties was done on a few occasions during the greater Cold War era. The trend of Left wing dictatorships, often based around narcotics or energy expropriation followed in the post 2000 era. The last decade and a half enshrined these divides and saw them diminish internally as US policy remained as paper projects never implemented. Foreign actors entered the region during this more recent and somewhat lost period of US policy towards Latin America. While a lack of US influence in the region has had its positive and negative results, the current policy approach doubles down on mediocrity as regional crises are challenged by local hegemons in Latin America.

The recent Summit of the Americas was hosted by the United States who clearly had other regions on its mind in 2022. While health policy was a focus of the Summit, the real challenges faced by one of the hardest hit regions by Covid will have little impact as Covid numbers wain. Like for all of us, inflation and employment is dominating their focus as economic chaos and recovery create new challenges and harm citizens in the US, Canada and Latin America simultaneously.

While these more serious issues were not the main target of policy approaches during the Summit of the Americas, they already are having a grand effect on the region itself. Countries excluded during the Summit have already taken to increase ties with Russia as a buffer against the US. Venezuela has been upgrading its military with some of the most advanced Russian jets and missile systems for a generation at this point and has close ties with Iran and China. Venezuelan refugees in Latin America make up one of the largest displaced populations in the world, and while they did give some funding for those issues at the Summit, there was little focus on the cause of the Venezuelan refugee crisis and Human Rights crisis taking place within ballistic missile striking distance of the United States.

The Summit did little to change the policy of restricting North American energy while a displacement of Russian energy is a key tool to ending the War in Ukraine. Openly dropping human rights based restrictions on OPEC members like Venezuela and Iran in order to displace Russian oil is simply fuelling more abuses against Venezuelan refugees, human rights activists in Iran and those in their regions being affected by funding further conflict. Without North American oil and gas displacing Russia’s funding source for weapons of war, they are just displacing conflict. Adding conflict in Latin America and other regions with the intent to help Ukraine will simply result in more atrocities and acts of war in other parts of the world. There is no point in holding a Summit of the Americas if the two biggest economies, the USA and Canada, do not intend to enact policies to reduce conflict in the region and abroad.

China’s economic investment in Latin America has been taking place for over a decade and a half at this point, tying even US allies like Colombia, Brazil and Argentina to Chinese infrastructure projects and natural resource dependency. While diversifying their economies away from the United States is a logical and beneficial decision, linking to only one other producer will likely have a similar effect as in the past where agro-economies rise and fall with the international price of their natural resource goods. The focus of industrialisation in one form or another was the strategy they used to ensure a flexible and diverse economic base in many Latin American countries for generations. It seems like the stability of long term policies have waned, diversifying customers as opposed to creating more economic opportunities for citizens in Latin America. This has not been as much of an issue in IT hubs in Brazil and manufacturing in Mexico, but the economic situation in those countries can change rapidly with the US Administration challenging Brazil’s leadership and Mexico’s President declaring himself absent from the Summit of the Americas altogether.

In 2022, the United States should focus on re-balancing their role in the region with that of China and take serious steps to reduce added conflict in Latin America. While agreements fade and alliances break apart, at the bare minimum the United States should act as an engine for economic diversity and a cap on added international conflict in Latin America. At this point at the end of the Summit, they have barely achieved any of those essential goals.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration