Comment on Cartagena

Quite apart from the distraction caused by the shenanigans of U.S. Secret Service agents with Cartagena prostitutes, most comments on the Cartagena Summit of the Americas missed the important points. They emphasized the inability of the participating presidents to agree on a final communiqué, highlighted vocal Latin American rejection of U.S. policies on Cuba and anti-narcotics strategy, and suggested that the Summit showed a confrontation between the United States and Latin America.

Actually, the Summit confirmed what most analysts have long understood: that no meaningful agreements can be reached to unite the diverse interests and priorities of more than 30 countries of such great variety. The difference between a meaninglessly vague final communiqué and no statement at all is unimportant.

Second, if there was anything significant about the extended discussion in Cartagena, it was that the presidents discussed their differing perspectives and on counter-narcotics efforts respectfully, not confrontationally, and that President Obama willingly participated in a dialogue. What a contrast from John Foster Dulles’s trip to Caracas to secure an OAS resolution condemning communism, in preparation for the CIA overthrow of Guatemala’s President Arbenz, when he immediately left the conference, not waiting to hear the Latin American presentations on their own agendas of concerns.

Finally, the most evident gap in Cartagena was between the ALBA nations—Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia, with Argentina apparently aligned—and the rest of the Latin American members. The presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador were absent for different reasons. President Morales of Bolivia was isolated, and Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner left early and in a huff when she could not garner the support for escalating tensions around the Malvinas/Falklands dispute. The ALBA nations are losing momentum; that was, for me, the big story from Cartagena.