Latin American leaders should have continued their investments

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President Biden wraps his arm around Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benitez as they take part in a photo with heads of delegation at the Summit of the Americas.

PA

At the Ninth Summit of the Americas, President Biden told Latin American leaders that “there is no reason why the Western Hemisphere should not be the most forward-looking, democratic and the most prosperous in the world.

Well, there’s a reason – rampant populism.

The pathetic role that the leaders of Mexico, Argentina, Belize and other countries played at the hemispheric summit, which just ended in Los Angeles, is just the latest example of why the region suffers from chronic poverty despite its wealth of natural resources and talented people.

Instead of using this rare opportunity of a regional meeting with the US president to collectively push for more exports and investment, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador boycotted the summit. He said he wasn’t going because Biden hadn’t invited the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

As Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez attended the summit, he used his speech to chastise Biden for not inviting those dictators from those three countries, as well as to lecture the United States about his alleged misdeeds.

Fernandez has used the podium to score political points with his anti-American base at home, rather than trying to advance his country’s interests. It was a big missed opportunity, as the Summit of the Americas only takes place once every three or four years and is the only hemisphere-wide meeting where Latin American leaders meet with the US President. .

Biden, of course, did the right thing by not including the Cuban, Venezuelan and Nicaraguan regimes. First, as the host of the summit, he had the right to invite whoever he wanted to his party.

Second, by virtue of a 2001 Summit of the Americas resolution, the meeting is reserved for countries that respect the democratic system.

And third, had they been invited, these bullies would have hijacked the summit agenda with absurd demands and would have shut out any chance of serious discussions on migration, trade and climate issues.

“There’s a time and a place for everything, and for Fernandez to use his speech to try to embarrass his host was unfortunate,” says Eric Farnsworth, Washington bureau chief for the Americas Society, a think tank focused on business based in New York. Tank. “It may have been good policy for national reasons, but was it worth it?”

Yet the absence of the leaders of Mexico, Bolivia, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, who were represented by their foreign ministers, and the divisive speeches of other presidents did not prevent the summit from reaching to potentially significant agreements.

The summit concluded with a “Los Angeles declaration” on migration signed by 20 countries and which provides for a “shared responsibility” by all nations to deal with migratory flows.

Among other things, Washington and regional financial institutions have pledged to help countries like Mexico and Colombia cope with the influx of Venezuelan or Haitian refugees, and Latin American countries have pledged to help Washington screening foreign migrants considering seeking asylum in the United States.

But Latin America squandered its biggest opportunity in decades to use the current global crisis to negotiate better access to the US market and more US investment in the region. The pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have disrupted US supply chains from China and caused a global shortage of food, oil and other basics that abound in Latin America.

It was a unique opportunity for Latin American countries to propose a trade and investment agreement to get American multinationals to move some of their factories from China to Mexico, Brazil and other countries in the region. .

This would have helped Latin America reverse its nearly 35% drop in foreign investment over the past decade. And that, in turn, would have helped halt the growing number of poor people in the region, which rose from 176 million people in 2010 to 201 million last year, according to United Nations figures.

But instead of pursuing long-term economic deals to strengthen their countries’ economies and reduce poverty, some key Latin American leaders have used the opportunity to promote politics to their domestic audiences.

Biden got it wrong: There’s a big reason the region isn’t one of the most prosperous in the world, and that’s because of its many narrow-minded leaders.

Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV show Sundays at 7 p.m. ET on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera

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Oppenheimer