The Latin American Summit in a rapidly changing world

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By the time this article appears in the newspaper, the Summit of the Americas will have concluded its three-day session. The meeting was hosted by President Joe Biden and held in Los Angeles. The US President remained at the meeting for its entire duration and spent some time talking to individual leaders. The series of summits dates back to 1994, when then-President Bill Clinton invited all heads of state from North, Central and South America to attend a meeting in Miami. . This time, the focus was on the changing world order after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the aggressive advance of rising China in several parts of the world, particularly in Asia.

The world order established after the end of World War II is being reshaped. In 1945, when the wars in Europe and Asia ended with the defeat of Nazi Germany in Europe and Japan in Asia, the victors agreed that the experience of the world after the end of the First World War in 1919 was not to be repeated. . Then those who had triumphed continued to punish the vanquished, forcing Germany to pay large reparations to the victors to compensate them for the resources they had spent on the war. This bankrupted Germany and contributed to the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party. The United States were the great victors of the Second World War; its contribution was to provide funds to European nations engaged in war and to provide military equipment by diverting its large industrial infrastructure to produce for the combatants. Russia also paid a heavy price. He lost 25 million people repelling the invading German armies in their country.

It was a heavy price and Moscow deserved a place at the table where the victors gathered to plan the future of the world. Although it was admitted as a member of the United Nations and given the right of veto on the institution’s Security Council, it was kept apart from other world institutions. He was one of the five permanent members of the Council. However, Moscow was not invited to the Bretton Woods conference which was held at a New Hampshire resort in the United States. The Soviet Union was not included as a guest because its system of governance did not conform to the structure the victors wanted to create in the world. In the Soviet Union, a single party, the Communist Party, controlled all instruments of governance, and private ownership was not allowed.

The conference established what have been called the “Bretton Woods” institutions. The International Monetary Fund, IMF, was tasked with maintaining financial security around the world while the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, IBRD, was given the funds and responsibility to rebuild Europe and Japan destroyed by war. The IBRD became what is now known as the World Bank Group of Institutions.

As nations gathered in Los Angeles for the Summit, the world was under great pressure that spanned the financial and political realms. The continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic, the worsening conflict between the United States and China, the rise of authoritarian states in several parts of the world and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are among the tensions facing the world now faces. How do we deal with these global stresses? Immigration was another area of ​​concern.

At some of America’s earliest summits, Washington attempted to work out its agenda. I personally experienced this in 1996 when the Summit was hosted by Carlos Menem, then President of Argentina. Bariloche, a city in the far south of the country, close to Antarctica, was chosen as the gathering place. The summit was attended not only by heads of state but also by heads of international development institutions that have worked in the region. On the guest list were the President of the Inter-American Bank and myself as head of the Latin America and Caribbean region worldwide. Before leaving for the summit, I received a call from the White House from a person who was in charge of Latin America and who worked for the American president. He said he wanted to see me but he didn’t want to be seen with me. He wanted to come to my office at lunchtime and I could have sandwiches brought to me. He came over and said that since I had spent a lot of time working on China for the Bank and was in charge of persuading the leadership in Beijing to adopt certain private sector initiatives, could I tell one party to Fidel Castro, then Cuban President, who will be at the Summit. He suggested that I somehow arrange a meeting with the Cuban president and tell him about my experience in China. “However, word that you had a meeting with Castro should not be leaked to the press in Miami and if that happens we will make it clear that it was your initiative and not at our request. You know that Cuban immigrants of Miami are fiercely opposed to Castro. I related this conversation to the President of the Bank and the Bank’s legal counsel. Both advised me not to accept the American suggestion and to have a conversation with Castro.

When I drove to the conference center in the car assigned to me by the Argentine government, I forgot to ask the driver for his name so that I could call him at the end of the meeting. At the end of the meeting, I saw Boutros Boutros Ghali leave. He was then Secretary General of the United Nations. He was staying in the same hotel where I was staying. I knew him a little and I approached him and asked if I could accompany him to the hotel. While I was talking with him, I saw Fidel Castro come out of the meeting room. “Have you met Castro?” asked the secretary general. When I said no, he accompanied me to where the Cuban president was standing and introduced me as the vice president of the World Bank. Castro threw his arm around me and said excitedly, “The World Bank, the World Bank! I want a picture taken. Call a photographer. But no photographer could be found and I escaped the fate that was predicted if my encounter with Castro was reported in the Miami press.

I tell this story to highlight the fact that much of the planning is done by various agencies of the US government to prepare the country’s leaders when they travel to important global gatherings. In planning the Los Angeles meeting, it was decided that since democratic systems versus authoritarianism would be one of the topics President Biden would like to pursue, authoritarian leaders from the region would not be invited. No invitations would be sent to the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. This discrimination was not acceptable to the leftist Mexican president who said he would not attend the Summit if these leaders were not included. What happened at the meeting will be the subject of my article next week.

Published in L’Express Tribune, June 20e2022.

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