The 8th Summit of the Americas

The 8th Summit of the Americas will take place in Lima Peru April 13th and 14th bringing 20 other world leaders from the Western Hemisphere together.

The event, with the aim of creating a dialogue between leaders in the Western Hemisphere, will not be attended by U.S. President Donald Trump or Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. 

This will be the first time a U.S. president will not attend the summit, started by President Bill Clinton in 1994 as a way to influence trade relationships in the region. 

While the meeting was initially started to encourage trade talks and the interconnection of our nations, goods, ideas, and people, over the years the talks have tried to take on more. Many have already pointed out the ironic timing for this year’s theme, “democratic governance fighting corruption,” as corruption has been abundant in Latin American scandals involving political powerhouses and regional leaders. 

“I would call this the surreal summit,” said Richard E. Feinberg, who helped organize the first Summit of the Americas and is a Latin America expert at the University of California at San Diego. 

Feinberg went on to tell the Post, why.

“The original host, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski stepped down in disgrace on March 21 after lawmakers claimed he misrepresented his financial relationship with Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company. In Brazil, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ended a dramatic, two-day standoff with authorities on Saturday, turning himself in to face a 12-year sentence on corruption charges. Lula, who was planning to run for reelection, is by far the biggest figure yet to fall in the scandal.” 

Maduro wasn’t even invited, but he threatened to crash the summit, then later retracted his statement saying he would “stay home with the Venezuelan people.” Finally on Tuesday Maduro said, “In truth, the Summit of the Americas is a waste of time.” 

What’s sad is Maudro might actually be right about one thing - that the Summit will not be a constructive conversation unless Latin American leaders make a decision to work together on some of the deep-seated problems. However, with such polarized agendas, and a U.S. administration that has suspended refugee resettlement programs, decreased the annual limit of refugees amidst a global refugee crisis, renegotiated NAFTA and ordered National Guard to reinforce the country’s border, it’s unlikely. 

“The situation in the region is so troubled — and its relationship with the Trump administration so fraught — that some analysts even suggested the summit should be scrapped,” wrote the post. While the event will go on experts predict “it will fail to seriously deal with deep-seated problems”.

Panama at the 2018 Summit of the Americas 

President of the Republic, Juan Carlos Varela, and the Vice President and Chancellor Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado are currently in Lima awaiting the Summit of the Americas. 

Within the framework of the regional event, Varela will hold bilateral meetings with Presidents, congressmen, and members of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Among the leaders, he will meet with include Vice President, Mike Pence.

Varela and Pence have met before. The Vice President traveled to the region last year to meet with the presidents of Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Panama, in an effort to increase pressure on Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro. This year, the Vice President’s agenda will likely be in line with the President’s, and that of last year, to push Latin American allies to put pressure on Venezuela. 

Panama is the first country in Latin America to pursue sanctions of its own against Venezuela. Panama recently blacklisted dozens of Venezuelan officials from doing business in the Central American country and several governments are contemplating similar legislative action against Venezuela. 

What is going on in Venezuela?

Venezuela is suffering from an economic and humanitarian crisis, which has been ongoing since the collapse of oil prices in 2014. With a devalued currency, hyperinflation and what the media dubs a “reckless” leader, international governments are imposing sanctions against the current regime. Things are worse than ever right now, and pretty much anyone who has the means to get out has left. 85% of medications are not available, including basic vaccinations, leaving children to die from irradiated diseases. People are so desperate for medication they are taking medications intended for animals. And the country is literally starving when food could easily be provided.  

With an upcoming vote scheduled for May 20 in Venezuela, the country is desperately in need of an agenda that will fight against the corruption leading their people to believe their vote won’t matter. 

Washington Post reported that Venezuela’s only significant challenger, Henri Falcon, would win by 10 points with 75% of votes rejecting Maduro. But the result relies on people voting (despite most of the opposition telling them not to), and, a fair election. 

While the U.S. continues to put pressure on the current administration to hold a fair election, most opposition parties don’t even have a candidate running, because they feel it would validate the election. A spokesman for U.N. political affairs, Jose Luis Diaz, said on Tuesday, April 10th that "The U.N. Secretariat is considering a request from the Venezuelan government for the accompaniment of the electoral process in the run-up to presidential polls set for 20 May.” This announcement came after U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltment met with Venezuelan ambassador Samuel Moncada, and opposition representative Henri Falcon. 

Falcon feels voting is the only hope for the Venezuelan people, but other opposition parties, including the Democratic Unity Rondtable (MUD), the party that expelled Falcon for registering as a candidate, feel voting and monitoring the vote will only legitimize a “sham election".

Venezuela at the Summit of the Americas 

President Maduro has been banned from attending the Summit of the Americas by the host country, but Venezuela will be in attendance via protesters with a plea for help for the 20 countries in attendance. Among the protestors is a group of Venezuelan rockers that have written songs speaking out against President Nicolas Maduro. The group will be handing out a CD called “Rock Against Dictatorship” during a summit in Lima. One of the 16 songs is a track called “Nazional” raging against the National Guard. The National Gaurd faced criticism for excessive use of force in breaking up anti-government protests in 2017. 

While the United States hopes to use the Summit of the Americas to urge Latin American countries to continue to put pressure on Venezuela, one can hope the event will be a stage to advocate for the democratic process, which is the best way to fight corruption. 

What is difficult to accept if that even if the summit addresses the crisis in Venezuela and acknowledged that the Venezuelan people need a fair election, Venezuela could still suffer an economic collapse. If by some chance the event does succeed in bringing together the Western Hemisphere to agree on the fact that the economic and social chaos in Venezuela will affect us all, creating a refugees crisis for neighboring countries like Panama, what will Latin American leaders do about it? 

Will Latin American leaders jump on Trump’s anti-rights bandwagon? Or will they work against, what feels like an imminent global refugee crisis that will undoubtedly affect all of Latin America. Or will the experts’ opinions prevail and the much-anticipated event will go on without a bang...unless a prostitution scandal presents itself.