Certain Latin American governments and some from the Caribbean reacted with virulence to the announcement by the United States government to exclude the dictatorships of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from participating in the ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. The State Department’s argument was that these countries “do not respect the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” originating from a mandate from the third Summit of the Americas in Quebec.
The protest against this decision of the host country was led by the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, together with his acolytes from Bolivia, Luis Arce; from Honduras, Xiomara Castro; and from Argentina, Alberto Fernández, who solemnly threatened not to participate in the Summit “unless everyone is invited”. However, despite the populist ultimatum, the government of President Joe Biden stood firm and confirmed that it will not invite the dictators of Venezuela and Nicaragua. For his part, Cuba’s Miguel Diaz-Canel voluntarily excluded himself from the Summit via Twitter. Everything seems to indicate that there will be a majority attendance of the Latin American and Caribbean governments to the event and an absence of very few countries, whose desertion is irrelevant and rather detrimental to the interests of their own States.
What remains curious is the fact that the democratic governments of Latin America, which signed the Declaration of Quebec and the Democratic Charter, have not been more eloquent in defending the democratic principles of the state of law and human rights in the Americas, which emanate from the declarations of the summits that they themselves signed. Perhaps the explanation lies in the fear produced by a possible new correlation of forces, where illiberal democracies grow at the expense of a greater devaluation of republican principles in various countries of the region.
In these circumstances, and despite the fact that the minimum standard to participate in the summits is that of original democracy, that is, governments emanating from free elections, we cannot ignore the fact that, if it were required that only those governments that exercise power in accordance with the rules of the game of the Democratic Charter, the number of participants would be significantly reduced. The truth is that, under the guise of illiberal forms of democracies, left and right, what is currently happening in many Latin American countries is a revival of classic corporatist fascism (Mussolini, Perón in Argentina, etc), this time by bureaucrats and warlords whose intellectual abilities are not their gift. Current populism converges with fascism in the characteristics of exalting the nation and racial identity above the individual and in the formation of centralized autocratic governments, headed by a dictatorial leader, control of all public powers, strict economic regulation and social and the repression of the opposition. This continuity of fascism is also reflected in the growing proximity of Latin American populism to the totalitarian governments of Russia, China and Iran and its gradual distancing from Western democracies.
In the same way, another worrying phenomenon is that this chorus of illiberal leaders is joined by various NGOs and self-styled “progressive” intellectuals, staunch defenders of Cuba’s participation in the summits. These “experts in Latin America” suffer from a conceptual confusion derived from ideological ghosts that prevents them from seeing reality. And the reality is that the current global, regional and national political confrontation is not between left and right, but between democracy and authoritarianism. These “leftist intellectuals” constitute, as Raymond Aron warned, the “opium of democracy”. The most corrosive are those who live in free societies and meticulously enjoy and demand those freedoms in their countries, but staunchly support those who suppress them in other states. In this way, they end up defending leaders who activate the collective to the detriment of the individual and unleash everything that is primitive in the human being to destroy individuality and build societies of tribes locked in the caves of their political model, where fundamental rights they are defined on the basis of identities and not citizenship. It is clear that those intellectuals and journalists from the first world do not live in those countries.
Faced with this reality, the democracies of the region, instead of engaging in niceties with the Latin American tyrants, should see the Summit as an opportunity to strengthen global and regional alliances in defense of democracy and human rights and avoid coexisting with governments that they are structured, to the right or left, under totalitarian models. Latin America has oscillated between two extreme formulas of caudillismo with a cyclical history of democratic periods followed by tyrants of all kinds: illiterate or educated, from the left or from the right. This vicious circle must end and this will only be possible if there is a commitment and decision of the democratic governments to wage the collective battle to consolidate democracy in the region.
It is worth remembering that the origin of the Summits of the Americas process was the commitment of the democratic heads of state, from Canada to Argentina, to commit themselves to the republican ideals of respect for political freedom, the rule of law and the citizenship in the exercise of power and the deep meaning of these events of heads of state should be to deepen the goals of democratic development and the strengthening of institutions and government processes that promote and protect liberal-democratic values.