US attempt to divide Latin America met with collective opposition
Published: May 18, 2022 08:23 PM
U.S. President Joe Biden walks out from the South Portico of the White House in Washington, D.C. Jan. 21, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua)

U.S. President Joe Biden walks out from the South Portico of the White House in Washington, D.C. Jan. 21, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua)

In the second half of May, the White House's policy toward Cuba and Venezuela seems to have a U-turn of what it was in the past. First, on Monday, the White House announced a series of steps to loosen some Donald Trump-era restrictions on travel to Cuba and the transfer of family remittances between the two countries. On Tuesday, reports show that Washington moves to offer an olive branch to Caracas, moving to allow Chevron Corp to negotiate its license with the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela. Reconciliation approaches for Nicaragua are also on the way. 

Such relaxations are major adjustments in Biden's attitude toward the left-leaning countries in Latin America since he took office. It also marks the end of the US policy toward the so-called Troika of Tyranny - Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela - during the Trump administration. Nevertheless, it has not been praised by the countries concerned and the left-wing camp in Latin America. Cuba has called the changes "positive, but of a very limited scope."

Indeed, Biden's measures are far from restoring US relations with the three countries to the level of the Barack Obama administration when Biden was his deputy. And even the "limited step" in the right direction is just a gesture in anticipation of the ninth Summit of the Americas to be held in Los Angeles early next month. As the main platform for the US aimed at consolidating its dominance in the Western Hemisphere, the Summit of the Americas has returned to the US for the first time in 28 years. 

Biden was considered a "goodwill ambassador for Latin America" when he was a congressman, and he was a key driver of US policy toward Latin America during the Obama administration. He was willing to deal with regional countries in a respectful and cooperative way.

But Trump bucked the trend and revived the Monroe Doctrine after taking office, which caused damage to the broad base of cooperation between the US and Latin America.

Biden's intentions to build a partnership based on communication have boosted the support for him from key Latino Americans. In January, Biden announced to host the Ninth Summit of the Americas. Even though many important meetings hosted last year were held online because of the COVID-19, Biden still insisted on a face-to-face meeting of leaders.

In short, Biden had too high expectations of making this "Summit of the Americas" a "Summit of the US." To prevent "anti-US" countries, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from saying "no" at the meeting, Western Hemisphere Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said that these three countries would not be invited to the Summit due to their "disrespect to the Inter-American Democratic Charter."

Such an attempt to divide the Americas by ideology immediately caused an uproar in Latin America, with heads of many regional countries, including Mexico, Brazil and Bolivia, threatening to skip the meeting.

Such a backlash is not what Washington anticipated. To avoid making the Summit a "US-only" event, the White House rushed to repair relations with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Nevertheless, the upcoming Summit of the Americas hosted by Biden will undoubtedly be remembered for its historically awkward, divisive, and hasty preparations.

Latin American countries now dare to challenge the White House not long before the summit. This undoubtedly reflects the continuing decline of Washington's control over the Western Hemisphere. It also sounds the death knell for the Biden administration's attempts to divide the world by ideology and to promote bloc confrontation.

Such a trick might have still been effective among Washington's traditional allies at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict two months ago. But the increasingly painful lessons Europe has learnt recently have greatly worried countries outside the region. Judging from the statement after last week's US-ASEAN Special Summit in Washington, the US has failed to rope ASEAN in against China and force the organization to take a tougher stance on the Ukraine crisis.

It is no surprise that the Biden administration has met with a sharp rebuff when the politicians in the White House tried to play the same trick on their own continent.

If the Biden administration really wants to change its predecessor's wanton and tough approach and bring the US back into the framework of multilateralism, it should face up to the vast majority of countries' desires to maintain peace and work together for development. Washington should not engage in bloc confrontation under the banner of "coordinating positions" or "conducting friendly cooperation." It won't work anywhere, be it in the Western Hemisphere, in East Asia, or in other parts of the world.

The author is executive director of the Latin American and Caribbean Region Law Center of China University of Political Science and Law. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn