The seventh Summit of the Americas ended this past week with host Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela declaring the event “historic,” saying it create a “legitimate expectation” that age-old and recent regional tensions would be resolved — most notably those between Cuba and the U.S., and the government of Colombia and the FARC.
As the first in its history to include representatives from all 35 states in the region, the summit was indeed historic. But did the handshaking and official statements represent a region truly more unified or did they serve to hide divisions that have made a hemispheric project more unlikely now than ever?
We invited several leading voices on the region to chime in on the summit’s significance, the challenges facing the region, and the future for shared visions around democracy, the economy, human rights and political ideology. When those are at odds, is there something strong enough to connect us?
First, in the lead-up to the summit, Carleton University professor Jean Daudelinbemoaned its loss of relevance. “Originally, it embodied regional efforts around two big endeavours: the economic integration of the Western Hemisphere, and the consolidation of the democracies,” he wrote. “This week’s meeting in Panama now buries the political and human rights component of the project. By next week, nothing of substance should be left.”
Not all share this view.
With the summit come and gone, others looked to evaluate how heavy democratic values and human rights weigh in the regional equation. Yvon Grenier, of St. Francis Xavier University, explores the new U.S. approach to Cuban relations in light of its treatment of Venezuela.
Two Ottawa-based Latin Americanists, Stephen Baranyi and Laura Macdonald lay out a roadmap for Canada’s engagement with the region, listing five steps the country must take to advance its Americas strategy.
Lastly, director of the Carter Center’s Americas program, Jennifer McCoy, who attended the summit, and University of British Columbia’s Maxwell Cameron, each give their take on whether a single Americas project still exists.
What is clear following the summit is that the inclusion of Cuba and the advance of peace talks in Colombia are both certainly welcome by regional partners. Whether our differences will mar efforts to create a more stable, peaceful and equitable hemisphere has yet to be seen.
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The “Handshake Summit” of the Americas
This week’s summit in Panama only reinforces the breakdown of the Americas’ democratic rights regime.