For the United States, the tumult exhibited at this spring’s Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia was an unfortunate but increasingly common display of the shifting templates of contemporary inter-American relations. From the high point of the Miami Summit in 1994—when a convergence of historic transitions to democracy and more open economies gave birth to an ambitious hemispheric agenda of cooperation across multiple sectors—to the failure in Cartagena to reach agreement on a final declaration, plus an embarrassing scandal involving U.S. Secret Service agents, regional diplomacy has grown ever more fractious and deadlocked. The fragmenting poles of power and influence in the region—a rising Brazil, a combative alliance led by Venezuela, a weakened Central America bogged down by economic stagnation and criminal violence, a struggling Mexico adapting to global forces and a new president, and a distracted and despondent United States, not to mention the pull of new actors like China and the downcast eyes of old actors like Europe—translate into a frustrating competition for leadership and growing doubts about the usefulness of pursuing a hemispheric agenda. Continue Reading ›
At least that is how it looked from the headlines in Washington, which focused on the contentious debates around U.S.-Cuban relations, the “war on drugs,” and even the long-simmering Malvinas/Falklands dispute that marked the Cartagena gathering. These are longstanding and legitimate disagreements that deserve recognition and serious hemispheric diplomacy. But they should not stand in the way of other important business on the regional agenda, issues that range from economic innovation and trade to public security, education reform, and energy and climate change. These are the subjects that will determine whether countries of the region are able to move together into the 21st century as meaningful partners with a common vision for win-win solutions. They merit more attention and discussion in every capital of the hemisphere and at the heads of state level.