Last week I attended the Eighth Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, and the fact that more than 25 presidents of the Americas came to this year’s conference shows a positive side of the Summit. Also, the gathering of the Civil Society and Business Forum (which are two conferences that take place before the Summit), created a discussion on the most crucial and difficult issues of the region.
Is it possible to measure the effectiveness of the Summits?
Yes, this time it has been possible to get results and we have attained more information than in previous years.
The central theme of the summit, “Democratic Governance in the Face of Corruption,” looked a little ambitious in the previous months of the event. Corruption is undermining several governments in the past year and we saw what has happened in Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is in prison. In Peru, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was forced to resign, in Ecuador, former President Rafael Correa will face accusations of corruption shortly and the ongoing corrupted regime ruling Venezuela.
There was a strong document signed by all participants committing their governments to work solidly and in agreement to combat the scourge of corruption at all levels. Is this document a strong and definitive tool for the immediate future? No, it’s not. It is just the first step, but at the same it is an encouraging beginning that the Civil Society is fighting corruption.
The second big issue has been the ongoing and endless humanitarian situation in Venezuela. Venezuelans are leaving the country to all possible places and there are hundreds of thousands living today in Colombia, and tens of thousands in Brazil, Panama, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay. Unfortunately, only 16 countries had the courage to sign a statement declaring loud and clear that the next elections in Venezuela are a farce, and warning the Americas of the humanitarian situation under President Nicolás Maduro’s regime and also among the millions of Venezuelan citizens who are arriving in other countries.
Panama was very clear on this matter and its president, Juan Carlos Varela, said that it is an obligation of all the Americas to recognize the very dramatic situation and help do something. They must face the lies of the Venezuelan government which does not recognize the humanitarian crisis that is occurring in its own country, and Venezuela blocks the possibility of real aid to its population and it is backed by proxies like Cuba and Bolivia in the region.
United States Vice President Mike Pence, Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Brazilian President Michel Temer, Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto were the main voices denouncing Maduro’s dictatorship.
The third big issue was not previously in the agenda. The Summit discussed the situation in Syria. Most people condemned Syria for using chemical weapons, however Bolivian President Evo Morales blasted the United States and said “Bolivia is fully backing the Syrian brothers in this moment that they are suffering an aggression.”
Populism in the region has brought misery and pain to the region, however it is decreasing. But Morales, Cuban President Raul Castro (who did not attend) and Maduro (who was not invited to attend) are still insisting in carrying out their totalitarian regimes with proxies from outside the Americas like Iran and opening doors to Hezbollah.
The B´nai B´rith delegation had conversations with different Civil Society organizations, OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and officers of several delegations. The Civil Society main meeting was attacked by Cuban members of Castro´s regime, who were shouting insults at Peruvian Prime Minister César Villanueva and the OAS secretary general. Regardless, the Civil Society was able to end its three day meeting, despite members of a dictatorship showing that open dialogue is not acceptable in Cuba.
We believe that the strong condemnation against Syria has been very important. It shows that the comprehension of Middle East unrest is now better understood in the region, and that populism is decreasing.
The next OAS General Assembly will be held the first week of June in Washington, D.C., and it is celebrating its 70th anniversary. This General Assembly will show if there is a real and strong majority to sanction the outrageous regime of Venezuela. Such a decision would help the OAS look stronger and the whole region look more democratic.
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International Director of Latin American Affairs since 1984. Before joining B'nai B'rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, click here.
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