By RICARDO CASTILLO
The eighth Summit of the Americas (SOA). which concluded Saturday. April 14, in Lima, Peru, was little more than a watered-down exercise in continental power.
For starters, the “mini-summit” was unintentionally bombarded by U.S. President Donald Trump by his not attending. Also silently absent from the event was talkative Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro, who was not invited. A face-to-face clash between Trump and Maduro would have paid the price of a ticket to attend, but that was avoided.
Summit host and new President of Peru Martín Vizcarra, who just replaced the real organizer of the event and now-ousted Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, set the theme of the gathering: Eliminate corruption in Latin American governments. Kuczynski’s ouster is perhaps a still fresh memory among Peruvians, but who knows, Vizcarra might be next, since he too has been charged with corruption.
Several key topics of the summit. while not set totally aside, were barely mentioned. It was expected, for instance, that Trump and Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto. as well as Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would announce that the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a done deal.
President Peña Nieto, however, did sit down to talk to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence who, at least regarding NAFTA, said the United States would instruct all negotiators to speed up their proceeding so they could be finished as soon as possible, but also added there was no time limit.
Journalists wanted to know Pence’s and Peña’s opinions of “the Wall,” but both evaded the issue. About the only thing Peña offered was a reference to his speech the week before regarding the presence of the U.S. National Guard along the border, which he said he told Pence the the Mexican government sees as “a hostile act” and an unwarranted “confrontational rhetoric.”
Pence told the Associated France Press that, in the end, his meeting with Peña Nieto had been “very productive.”
Also participating in terms of NAFTA was U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who said he was “optimistic” over the pace negotiations have advanced, but that that negotiators were “short of time” regarding the mounting pressure put by the upcoming presidential elections in Mexico, as well as elections in Canada and the United States. But, again, nobody set up a time limit.
In the midst of the SOA process, which lasted from Thursday. April 12, through Saturday, April 14, about the only noteworthy incident was the sudden retirement from the summit by Ecuador President Lenín Moreno, who had to go back home after it was announced that two kidnapped journalists had been murdered.
The main forums at the SOA were on how to fight corruption, but this is indeed a most difficult theme since, by now, several Latin American presidents are in jail guilty of corruption (the two latest cases are Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, who was sent to prison a week ago, and Argentina’s Cristina Kirschner.)
Of course, corruption – though on the agenda – is not a comfy issue for Latin American presidents. But, as I have already said, in Peru, the Kuczynski case is still very fresh.
Also, it was inevitable that several presidents made a statement against Venezuela’s Maduro, who is running now for an umpteenth term in office with no respect for democracy. The idea of isolating Venezuela from the rest of Latin America is a de facto reality right now, since Venezuela is an outcast in the Organization of American States (OAS).
Needless to say, Friday’s bombardment of Syria by the United States and its allies was also a subject of discussion. but there was unanimity among those attending in condemning the Bashar al-Assad regime for using chemical weapons against civilians, but nothing about the U.S., France and Great Britain launching 105 explosive missiles against Syria.
In terms of Mexico, Peña Nieto defended his reforms and said that they were modern and up-to-date and for anyone to dare toppling them would be going back into failed economic history.
Summing up, like most of these summits, let’s just say that the presidents of the American continents got together, but in reality, there was little substance to the discussions, and in the end, if there were achievements, they were no tour de force.