President of the United States of America Joe Biden was pictured this week smiling in photographs with prime ministers and presidents from across Latin America and the Caribbean, including our own head, Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
The diplomatic storm created by the demands of some countries in the hemisphere to have all member nations of the Organisation of American States (OAS) as well as Cuba, attend the Summit of the Americas, which the American leader is playing host in Los Angeles, California, seems to have dissipated.
The Americans dispatched one of their top State Department officials to Barbados, just days before the conference, even as fellow Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves was leading a campaign to have follow regional heads boycott the event unless Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were invited.
From media reports, it appears that the leaders of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala blanked the summit, while the Vincentian leader also stayed away.
American politicians, including some inside Biden’s Democratic Party in the US have been pushing hard for months to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The Summit of the Americas, which has been dubbed as another platform for the Americans to assert their dominance and influence in the region, has never been a forum at which any major initiatives announced, or agreements reached that have resulted in any tangible or other benefits to the Caribbean.
This year’s summit, more than anything, may have highlighted the double standards of which our American friends have long been accused.
We understand that few, if any Barbadians, would trade places living in our democracy with all its flaws and inadequacies, for life in the socialist/autocratic existence of Cuba or Venezuela.
However, for the Americans to hold such a hard-line position on who could attend the Summit of the Americas seems laughable, when the US is so entangled in trade, diplomacy and cooperation with countries like Saudi Arabia, China and The Philippines.
Those nations are known for some of the worse human rights abuses and where democratic principles are constantly undermined, sometimes with brute force.
But what has been even more stark about the American stand, is the fact that America’s position as a gold standard for democracy has diminished significantly.
The struggle for political power there seems more akin to a banana republic than the bastion of liberal democracy.
In fact, the presidency of Donald Trump, many have argued, has provided a 21st Century blueprint for autocracy and abuse of power.
So, rather than spreading democracy and being a guiding light, the US was heading in the opposite direction between 2016 and 2020.
And even now, we watch as the groundwork is being laid for the deprivation of voting rights of a significant portion of the American electorate.
The Summit of the Americas is also being staged at a time when we are certain the attention of the US president had to be divided between the Summit he was hosting and the January 6 Committee’s first public primetime hearing on Thursday night.
The session, which was reportedly watched by more than 20 million viewers, suggests that there is deep consternation among many Americans and American allies.
They worry that if Donald Trump and his acolytes are not held accountable for their actions that culminated with a failed coup on January 6, 2021, and is selected as the Republican presidential candidate, America’s democracy may not hold, if he regains control of the White House.
Jonathan Stevenson, senior fellow for U.S. defence at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a global think tank wrote earlier this year “Although liberally inclined countries by default may still look to America for political support, authoritarianism is increasingly seen as a viable alternative.”
Whether this was the intention of the former US president or not, this has been the effect of his term in office and fear and/or allegiance he has created within the Republican Party.
There are many in Barbados who will argue that what is occurring in the US is an American problem and nothing to do with us. That would be foolhardy.
As an adviser to the current president opined: “Allies look at it with concern and worry about the future of American democracy. Adversaries look at it, you know, more sort of rubbing their hands together and thinking, ‘How do we take advantage of this in one way or another?’”