Latin America seeks neutrality in geopolitics

Since the beginning of the Ukraine conflict, the region has increasingly kept its distance from the global power blocs. The U.S. is therefore now threatened with a serious embarrassment at the Summit of the Americas in June. For us in Europe, this should be a warning sign.

by Alexander Busch, Latin America correspondent for Handelsblatt and Neue Zürcher Zeitung


Two deputy secretaries of state from the U.S. State Department just visited Brazil – and for several days at that. The goal of their diplomatic offensive is to persuade President Bolsonaro to attend the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in June. However, Bolsonaro has not said whether he will travel to California.

Preparations for the ninth Summit of the Americas are also faltering in other respects. Washington wants to host a Summit of the Americas for the first time since 1994. From June 6 to 10, all the states of the double continent are to gather in Los Angeles.

But that’s where the controversy starts: Joe Biden’s administration only wanted to invite democratic states. The regimes in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba were not to receive invitations. In the meantime, that is no longer certain.

Because Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared last week that he would only come if all the states in the hemisphere were invited. Bolivia, Honduras and some Caribbean countries followed suit.

The U.S. is now facing a serious setback: If well over half of the 660 million Latin Americans, including Brazil, Mexico and a few other countries, are not represented at the summit, it will have failed before it has even begun.

This is an embarrassment. The U.S. would like to show that it is the dominant great power in the Americas – even south of Texas. But they are less and less so: The Latin American states are less and less willing to subordinate themselves to the U.S. or to let Washington dictate anything. The Ukraine conflict has also enhanced the region’s status as a global supplier of raw materials and energy. The states are increasingly behaving neutrally in the disputes between the global power blocs.

The decisive reason, however, is that the U.S. under Biden offers too little. On the region’s most pressing issues – migration, trade and growing poverty – the Biden administration has no proposals, joint projects or solutions for Latin America in its quiver. Biden continues Trump’s Latin America policy – distancing himself from dictators in Latin America and a restrictive migration policy. So far, Biden has not set his own course.

Latin Americans have not forgotten that Trump did not even show up at the last summit in Peru in 2018, and the U.S. barely helped Latin America with vaccine shipments during the pandemic.

For us in Europe, the events in Washington are a warning sign. We, too, could soon feel a growing indifference from Latin America. After all, Germany and the EU also offer Latin America few foreign policy and economic options for a new, closer partnership. We have neglected the countries in the pandemic in much the same way as the United States. And we like to criticize the shortcomings in the region’s democracies and environmental standards – while this seems to bother us little in the case of many states with which we cooperate around the world.

COVID-19 in Latin America

Development of case numbers in the region

Currently reported cases in the countries

Share of people vaccinated by country

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