This could prove an historic shift, reversing more than a century of usually coercive influence in Latin America.
By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News
I tip my cap, as we all should, to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico. And to Presidents Luis Arce of Bolivia, Xiaomara Castro of Honduras, Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala and Nayib Bukele of El Savador. They all pointedly declined to join President Joe Biden at his Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles last week, joining to protest Biden’s refusal to invite Miguel Díaz–Canel, Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega, the presidents of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua respectively.
Add it up. Eight of the region’s 33 nations were absent when Biden convened the summit “to demonstrate the resurgence of U.S. leadership in the region,” as the government-supervised New York Times forlornly put it. Don’t they ever get tired of these long-exhausted phrases over on Eighth Avenue?
“There can be no Americas summit if all the countries of the American continent do not participate,” López Obrador explained at a press conference announcing his decision. “Or there can be, but we believe that means continuing with the politics of old, of interventionism, of a lack of respect for the nations and their people.”
Well said, Señor Presidente. Speaking more bluntly, Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president until the U.S. cultivated a coup that forced him into exile three years ago, called the summit “stillborn.” There is nothing like clear, plain language to get a clear, plain point across.
This, the ninth such summit since Bill Clinton convened the first in Miami in 1994, was far more than Biden’s latest flop on the public relations side. In my read it is another sign among many that Washington is losing its hold over its southern neighbors. This could prove an historic shift, reversing more than a century of usually coercive influence.
Dollying out still further, the administration’s failure in Los Angeles last week signals a startlingly swift decline in American power everywhere other than Western Europe and among longtime allies such as Japan and South Korea. Biden drastically misread his moment with his “America is back” bit as he took office 18 months ago. Having overplayed his hand, he is now destined to preside over a significant inflection point in the late-phase imperium’s crumbling hegemony. It is exactly what Joe “Not on my watch” Biden wanted most to avoid.
A New Pink Tide
In the larger scheme of things, the L.A. nonevent is merely a passing signifier of more profound trends across Latin America. It is now evident that a second “Pink Tide” is flowing across the continent.
The original Pink Tide dates to the 1990s, when Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela turned sharply against the neoliberalism of the “Washington Consensus.” That wave ebbed in the first decade of the new century. The second wave began with López Obrador’s election in 2018.
Since then, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, El Salvador and Honduras have all returned left-tilted presidents. Luiz Inácio da Silva, the tenacious “Lula” and a leader of the first Pink Tide, is ahead of Jair Bolsonaro in the polls as Brazil’s October presidential elections approach.
To describe this tilt as leftward is to miss the larger point. As López Obrador makes clear every chance he gets, it is also an assertion of sovereignty and postcolonial pride. Nobody is judging anyone else’s political stripe.
And the tide is likely to prove more enduring this time, in my view. A fundamental shift in sentiment is evident across the continent. The region wants economic policies that serve its populations and to rid itself of the corrupt leaders los norteamericanos have long favored. It is also more conscious of its shared identity and increasingly intolerant of the long record of U.S. interventions, coups, occupations, electoral interference, and the rest of the entries in Washington’s blotted copy book.
Let us watch carefully as Colombia holds its runoff presidential election June 19. The first round, May 29, and all the opinion polls suggest that the nation’s next president is likely to be Gustavo Petro, a left-wing populist, a member long ago of the M–19 guerrilla movement, and a one-time mayor of Bogotá. If Petro proves victorious, we can consider the second Pink Tide consolidated. Colombia has long been Washington’s closest and most constant ally on the continent.
A year ago López Obrador proposed replacing the Organization of American States, which Washington has reduced over many years to a ventriloquist’s dummy that many Latin nations no longer take seriously, with a truly autonomous organization — “not a servant to anyone, but a mediator,” as he put it at the time. He subsequently called for a continent-wide institution similar to the European Union.
Who knows how long it will take for such ideas to bear fruit, if, indeed, they are destined to? But the drift in Latin America is clear, and it is not in Washington’s direction.
Latin America suffered arguably more than any other region in the Global South during the first Cold War if we measure this by the violent dictatorships the U.S. supported for decades in the name of countering an imaginary “Communist threat.” What Washington truly feared, as argued previously in this space, was a working social democracy that inspired others.
Latin American leaders, including rightists such as Bolsonaro, are emphatically not on for Cold War II. They’re rejecting the Biden administration’s framing of our moment as a war between democrats and authoritarians. Most immediately, they stand with the global majority in refusing to side with the U.S. and NATO in the proxy war against Russia they provoked via the filthily corrupt regime in Ukraine.
It’s interesting to watch now as variants of these currents manifest across the Pacific. America’s allies in East and South Asia are by and large more developed, less prone to political instability, and, with exceptions such as India, more inclined to cooperate under the vaunted American “security umbrella.” But something of the same picture emerges: You find few East Asian enlistees in America’s late-imperial campaigns.
A Stalled Pivot
Since the announcement of the Pentagon’s Pacific Defense Initiative (PDI) two years ago, it is increasingly acknowledged that the U.S. is not capable of waging the Cold War it dearly wants with China without the help of nations in the region. The emergent strategy, threaded through the PDI documents, is to build new air and naval bases in host nations, get them to let the U.S. station ballistic missiles and other weapons on their territory and persuade them to spend more on their militaries in America’s anti–Chinese cause.
Maybe it would have worked in past decades, and past decades are the Pentagon’s frame of reference. But there are no takers this time. Nobody wants American missiles pointed at China on their soil, not even the Japanese. Even the South Koreans insist as a matter of longstanding policy, that U.S.-deployed weapons are not welcome if they are used in Washington’s campaign against the mainland.
During his summit with Japanese, Indian and Australian leaders in Tokyo last month, Biden announced the launch of a long-gestating Indo–Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) intended to counter China’s extensive aid and development programs in the region. What did the final communiqué promise? Little more than four poorly defined “pillars” in the IPEF and “collective discussions toward future negotiations.”
Are Biden’s people kidding? This is what they have to say in reply to China’s extensive aid and development assistance throughout the Pacific, through which it is doing perfectly awful things such as building schools, hospitals, roads and bridges in the region’s underdeveloped nations.
Horrible, dangerous, a “threat to our national security interests” if ever there was one. We had better respond with “collective discussions.”
Is Joe Biden turning out to be the Rodney Dangerfield of American foreign policy? It’s tempting to think so: The man is one flub after another and he don’t seem to get no respect.
But he has the Europeans on his side. It is a mystery to many, but they have lined up via NATO in the proxy war against Russia and gone full-tilt with a sanctions regime that will hurt them more than the Russians. We will see how this goes as the war grinds on, inflation breaks records and furnaces go cold. Households in England are already burning wood.
Let’s net this out.
Biden has arguably reasserted American leadership in Britain and on the Continent, but he is failing everywhere else. He hasn’t divided the world into democrats and authoritarians, the Cold War II formulation to take the place of the Communist–anti-Communist binary that kept America going for the 40–odd years of Cold War I. He has divided the world between the small minority of the human community known as the West and the global majority.
My words for this are regression and failure. The first is to be regretted, always. But failure in the case of American foreign policy is almost always to be applauded. This is necessary if the empire is to be brought to an end.
I say this not because I dislike my country, though I am not much for nationalism, patriotism and all that. I say it because I refuse to let go of the great potential America has to do better.
The rest of the world will be better off when American primacy passes into history. So will Americans. The Spaniards, let us not forget, were better off once we relieved them of their empire during and in the aftermath of the Spanish–American war.
Let events relieve us of ours.
Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. Follow him on Twitter @thefloutist. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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We in Mexico love AMLO, the US funded MSM and their neoliberal allies attack him day and night, calling him a friend of Drug Dealers, a Dictator, a crazy old man, and worse things that shouldn’t be written, but the vast majority of the population stopped listening to their lies a decade ago, the general public has been vaccinated against the MSM lies and now it’s the 2nd most popular president of the globe.
AMLO is a true leader and we’re very proud of him.
The U$A will continue its trajectory of subversion, intervention, and even war as long as it possibly can. Its entire historical course is set. All that can change matters is state bankruptcy and disunion, even Civil War II.
Maybe one of the most salient points I’ve read at this site is accompanied by one of the most true and saddest.
Read those last three paragraphs!
Brilliantly authored, Mr Lawrence.
Regarding the picture of Blinky sitting in the chair …
Did someone furniture designer create those chairs with the idea in mind of making the occupants look like children who’s feet wouldn’t be likely to touch the floor while sitting in them. Yes, I can see that Blinky’s feet do touch the floor, but it still gives the impression of a child sitting in an adult’s chair. Or maybe I just saw Lily Tomlin too many times while young and impressionable?
“Me Too” NATO movement in Asia.The Quad. India has had strict Policy of non alliance. How it is mixed up in this Quad nonsense leaves me perplexed.lts reproachment with China cant be far away? As for Japan how long before it embraces the reality of the region? Australia position is also interesting .As the Country becomes more Eurasian in culture, particularly with it’s very large number of citizens of Chinese heritage, the inevitable peaceful integration into the Neighbourhood is certain.Many of her citizens feel personally targeted by the anti China rhetoric of their government. The Quad is just another example causing concern.lts being viewed with disdain.Recent Aussie elections reinforce this view.
As for Latin Americia you wonder how long the regions subordination can continue.Sooner or later its inevitable they too will meet the reality and adjust.The question is when? This summons to attend this Summit has been rejected by quite a number.Feels like a declaration of some sort.They can expect some “blowback”. Let’s see what happens.
Patrick Lawrence perceptively points out that even right-wing leaders such as Jair Bolsonaro are “emphatically not on for Cold War II” alongside their more traditionally “Pink Tide” counterparts when discussing his observations regarding the undercurrent of anti-hegemonic resistance throughout the Western Hemisphere. That being said, I think he may actually understate the extent to which this revived spirit of Latin American resistance arguably coheres less rigidly to the left side of the traditional political dichotomy than initial late-1990s and 2000s era manifestations of regional Yankee-skepticism in the form of socialism (i.e., it may be more (geo)politically complicated than the ascription of a “second Pink Tide” would imply, which may prove even more problematic for the US government).
For instance, Lawrence somewhat reductively places the likes of Guatemala’s Alejandro Giammetei, El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele, and (admittedly less controversially) Mexico’s AMLO firmly in the leftist camp, the latter of whom has mixed fiscal conservatism and trimmed down the government bureaucracy in several arenas while still upholding socially progressive policies in various ways (managing to avoid a hyperinflationary spiral). I think it is even more fascinating to see these administrations come out in opposition to the Summit of the Americas and selectively embrace other Washington Consensus-skeptical positions/policies despite some of their more characteristically right-wing facets/attribute. This is particularly the case with civilian authoritarians like Bukele, and (especially) Giammetei and Bolsonaro, who have embraced social conservatism, “mano dura” militarization, and overall alignment with neoliberalism (as even the more traditionally leftist likes of the Ortega-Murillo administration in Nicaragua have in various ways), but have also alloyed their political programs with maverick, untraditional stances to varying extents and degrees (ranging from Bolsonaro’s retention and expansion of Bolsa Família via Auxílio Brasil, to Bukele’s adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender to complement/compete with US dollarization, dovetailing with their somewhat more multipolar/non-aligned stance on international affairs than, e.g., many neopopulist civilian leaders or especially the military governments participating in Operation Condor). Even leftist Gustavo Petro’s primary opponent in the impending Colombian presidential runoff elections, Rodolfo Hernández Suárez, is less traditionally or stereotypically ultraconservative or neoliberal than he is an unconventional populist in the mold of AMLO, at least purporting to favor drug reforms, same-sex marriage and abortion, and a universal basic income, while being less proximal to the political circle of the deeply US-aligned Álvaro Uribe.
If even those Latin American administrations are resisting key aspects of extant US hegemony in the region while attempting to reconcile a diverse potpurri of political idea spanning (and perhaps transcending) the traditional political spectrum, for better and for worse, the Colossus of the North may struggle to persist in asserting itself even in its own hemisphere.
I wonder how long the European states remain in vassalage, with their economies going under as their leaders kowtow to the US overlords. UK and French governments shaky. German and Italian coalitions weak. The business classes are going to see where their bread is buttered, and it’s to the east, and they will unite with outraged populations against the Atlanticist political class. In some nations it will be a right swing, in others a left. Though the German Greens, the peace party that became a war party, are toast. The U.S. Empire may be largely dissolved by 2030. And who knows about the U.S. itself when the reserve currency money printing scam runs dry?
Hear, hear! A most brilliant essay from Mr. Lawrence. And I sincerely appreciate his writing that he does not wish our country to fail – a sentiment I share deeply, despite my critical eye cast upon all that is (and continually going) so horribly wrong here.
We in the Five Eyes nations, Western Europe and beyond have been living for some time under a global empirical framework that seeks to render constitutional republics impotent, eliminate citizens’ aspirations for democracy, and forever trap us in a technological/biological tyranny, which it will control. This I want to fail, most definitely.
And if South America were ever to form an EU-like body, I would pray it steer clear of these goals, as well.
AMLO “called for a continent-wide institution similar to the European Union”
There already is, at least in prototype: CELAC. Plus, potentially, ALBA.
And while South America has UNASUR, the Caribbean has CARICOM.
Presumably AMLO wants to build up these organizations to develop regional strength.
“Eight of the region’s 33 nations were absent”
Not so, as I understand it. AMLO stayed away, but reportedly sent his foreign minister
(and the usual accompanying phalanx, I presume). The other seven may have done
the same, though the symbolism of the heads of government boycotting Biden remains.
And what of the Caribbean, several of whose leaders were talking about boycotting?
I wish this article had more detail — and nuance.
Correction: John Bolton’s ‘troika of tyranny’ — Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela
— presumably weren’t invited to send anyone. (Is Bolton still influential?)
At best, the only available options in overall US foreign policy in our contemporary Wolfowitzian “end of history” seem to be Bolton or Diet Bolton, and Biden and Trump (even after the latter pulled his “The Apprentice” schtick on the mustachioed arch-neoconservative himself) have more than proven that one can have a Bolton foreign policy without John Bolton (be it taking the world to the brink of nuclear Armageddon in Ukraine, or only barely averting another “forever war” in the post-Soleimani Persian Gulf due almost solely to subsequent Iranian restraint).
¡Hear, Hear, Hear!
From the article: Colombia has long been Washington’s closest and most constant ally on the continent.
We knew folks on the ground in Columbia. So I have come to believe it is the Columbia oligarchs that Washington has close allegiance to. The peasants on the other hand would join Bolivia etal and be free of US supported oligarchs.
Sadly it took so long for Latin America to realize that the Yankee is NOT a friend – rather an exploiter, an arm-twister, an extortionist y mucho, mucho mas…
My reading of Latin American history is of 500+ years of resistance to colonialism,
and resistance to U.S. imperialism at least since the 1898-1902 intervention in Cuba.
Overcoming imperialism requires more than realizing who is not your friend.
Corruption is a deadly cancer affecting too many countries and too many people.
Lucid, pithy, comprehensive to its core. Thank you, Patrick Lawrence. If the US, before its fall, could take on the wisdom of Mexico’s Manuel Lopez Obrador, possibly the US could blend into the world with dignity. Not likely, with a State Department so committed to the inherently fascist ideology of unipolarity and exceptionalism.
Another insightful, unbiased analysis of the “new awareness” of Central and South American leaders on American “exceptionalism” in the region who finally come to a realization that they are sovereign nations and not vassal states as so many European nations are, and for that matter, Japan and South Korea.
War, is perhaps America’s most profitable business, which is leading to a decline in every area which once made the United States an enviable and admirable country to live in or emigrate to.
Throughout recorded history, empires rise and eventually fall from within, rather than being conquered by “opponents.”
When political “leaders” are desperate for failed policies and economic upheavals, if that isn’t to strong a word, they create an “enemy” or “boggyman” to blame for their inept decision making .
I’d like to be optimistic, but I think our better days are behind us.
As a dual United States-Colombian citizen who cares deeply for both countries and aspires to help both of them escape from their oligarchic owned, deep state dominated governments, the antitheses of democracy, I am proud that many Latin American governments demonstrated their political maturity and sovereignty by rejection the United States’ orchestrated theater in California, interestingly, act II of the theater being orchestrated in the House of Representatives. At the same time I am deeply embarrassed that the Colombian government failed to stand by its sister states, something that may change in this Sunday’s presidential elections, notwithstanding tacit but important United States support for candidate Rodolfo Hernandez Suarez, a combination of the worst of Trump and Biden, with his own version of Hunter. Hopefully soon, Colombia and Latin America will be perceived of as positive examples for a new and truly democratic and libertarian new world order.
There will be no peace anywhere until the U.S. has been brought down, there are brush fires all over the world instigated by us for our benefit and no one else’s with Ukraine of course being the big one. As the good book says, we must pay for our sins, and we are only beginning that long journey with the drop in the living standards in the United States and Europe, which will continue for years to come.
The Biden administration appears to suffer from delusions of grandeur. They believe coerced proxies are reliable allies. NATO and EU have cracks and are likely not to survive the military fiasco. Japan and S. Korea have self-interests.
The problem here is that the American citizenry has absolutely no controller their federal government. Corporate America has replaced average American citizens as the domestic and foreign policy Grand PooBah. Tt is not a grand coalition of all U.S. corporations but rather a tight knit group that comprises of the MIC, Big Oil, Big Agra and the media. It is this same group that trumps any and all other alternatives that would have benefitted average Americans rather than specific shareholders. Every single coup in Latin America had an American corporation behind it. AT & T in Chile, United Fruit Company in Guatemala and every other Central American neighbour, Exxon and Chevron in Venezuela, etc. because these companies are natural enemies of humanity, any organization of America States must prohibit corporate participation. The key here is for Americans to internally rein in corporate dominance of the government, but with two entrenched corporate sponsored party’s to choose from, Americans have no viable alternative at this point in time.
Add big Pharma and Insurance to the “grand coalition”. For many years, the USA pharma industry has been hugely more profitable than oil. Even Gates has huge investments in the industry, specifically the Phizer COVID vac.
“The rest of the world will be better off when American primacy passes into history. So will Americans.”
Let’s not forget Canada’s lap dog/pit bull role in this debacle. It is Canada that has been Juan Quaidó’s biggest fan, and that led many of the attempts to undermine Venezuela’s elected government. Liberalism is not progressive policy, and Trudeau, for all his woke charm, should most definitely not get a free pass just because he can (usually) string sentences together.
Let’s face it, the Western, U.S. Britain France Brussels thinking is dominated by White Supremacist thinking.:
WE KNOW – WE SANCTION, WE EMBARGO
White Supremacy ideology with a dose of Slavophobia 2 justify an aggressive foreign policy that serves exploitation of other countries on behalf of the Davos crowd thinking…
We all remember the satirical question – “What’s our oil doing under their sand?”…
It’s been painful to watch the death and destruction of the peoples in Latin America for decades and going back to the National Fruit Company…maybe further
We’ve always loved using home grown tyrants in Latin America, the Far East, Africa, you name it to help our “best and brightest” elite grab their resources, impoverishing their own people.
Goldman environmental prize winner, Bertha Caceras, murdered in Honduras after Hillary’s coup in 2009 (one of her “hard choices”)
held Mrs. Clinton accountable for the threats she was receiving….
I very much hope this current trend towards the election of leaders whose focus is on their own country and their own people’s wellbeing continues instead of “leaders” who are puppets of the exploiters. Especially now for the brutalized and battered Columbia.
(courtesy of more U.S. meddling) I think both Clintons were involved in that, as well as in Haiti. But not only the Clintons…each one used McCarthy Cold War thinking to get away with it.
The people of those countries know what’s best for them.
We misuse our military power against these people.
We could use our own resources much more beneficially for our own country, people and world peace if we threw away the White Supremacist mantle.
Humility and cooperation would serve to give us all a chance to stabilize our country and the world
Good day evelync,
I agree whole heartedly with your views and insight. One area you mention that I am skeptical of, is that the US would be better off tending to it’s own difficulties.
Yes that would be true if the US wasn’t owned. We taxpayers pay on the national debt interest. We no longer own this country. As soon as our military is no longer of use to the wealthy of the world our citizens will meet a Grand Great Depression that has never in history been seen before. We will become surfs and peasants on Bill Gate’s farms and other oligarchs like him. Actually we will be slaves.
A karma that grows from the desolation we imposed on the Indians or first people here and around the world.
I have asked myself many times why Europe insists on harming itself, and the only reason I can come up with is it’s still stuck in its white supremacist, colonialist mentality, so it rides the coattails of the Numero Uno white supremacist, colonialist nation. A commenter on Spinster who lives in Europe said that no one she knows supports this idiocy against Russia, but her country’s “leaders” care not a whit for what the population thinks.
“We misuse our military power against these people.”
I forget the context, but recall Madelyn Albright’s response when Colin Powell said, “We have the greatest military in the world.” What good is it if you don’t use it?”
“Humility and cooperation would serve to give us all a chance to stabilize our country and the world.”
Hear, hear. And what a great shame we don’t have them already.
Edward Gibbon in his classic work “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” pointed out that at the end of the day the Roman Empire of West was militarily defeated. Given the fact that except for those dangerous countries like Grenada and Panama, the US hasn’t won a military contest since WWII, and given that the odds are that Kiev, for all its bluster, is unlikely to be able to prevent Russia from ousting the crazy Cossacks from the Donbass, it could well be that the Ukraine will become what Marshall Auerback over on The Scrum called NATOs Waterloo. And it could easily become the US’s Waterloo as well.