EspañolI’ve been reading the European press, and I’ve barely come across any mention of Latin America. Europe prefers, as always, to concentrate on itself, on its closest friends and enemies — confined to its own backyard and stagnant. Meanwhile, Latin America is being transformed, moving away from the Old World, and “being conquered by its Asian partners,” receiving heavy levels of investment from China.
But while the European Union continues to be mired in internal problems, beset by the specter of disintegration and preoccupied by the situation in Ukraine, Brussels has under the radar been celebrating a summit with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC): “Shaping our common future: working for prosperous, cohesive, and sustainable societies for our citizens.” From June 1o-11, representatives of 61 nations from the two regions united to “strengthen links on the basis of common objectives.”
Summits are, in my opinion, expensive and pointless examples of “doing politics.” They’re spectacles of shallow appearances, cynicism, PR exercises, and posturing.
The two parties, beyond taking an endless amount of photos, spoke across the two days about an “incredible diversity of issues,” such as the intensification of interregional business under free-trade agreements, poverty eradication, climate change, and cooperation on education, science, and technology.
The EU-CELAC Summit, according to the co-president of the meeting, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, was designed to promote the “common values of both regions,” such as respect for international law, democracy, and recognition of the right to self-determination of peoples.
Those who were paying attention will have noted that Correa’s declaration didn’t include human rights, suggesting that “peoples” can trample over the rights of the individual. As a result, the task of finding common ground for a final agreement, from the European point of view, became impossible.
Summits usually end with a declaration of intentions and principles, usually of nothing more than symbolic importance. The declaration that the EU-CELAC Summit ended with only showed the European Union’s timidity in speaking out for its professed values, and revealed the firm friends of Chavismo on the other side of the Atlantic.
Although Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro didn’t participate, in his place he sent Vice President Jorge Arreaza, who was more than able to put forward the agenda from Caracas and divide the participants.
It’s striking that the adoption of any kind of criticism or punishment for Venezuela was rejected. Those who were concerned about the country’s deepening slide into authoritarianism failed to generate enough support.
As a result, the summit, which opened with the speech from the Ecuadorian leader, ended with a notorious silence on Venezuela’s political prisoners. Somewhat ironically, it did include criticism of the sanctions imposed on Chavista officials by the United States.
After reaching the final declaration, Correa — who was the most visible and most quoted individual — stood alongside the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission and said that meetings such as the summit “are very fruitful for influencing the global order.” For Venezuela’s political prisoners, and the region’s harassed free press, however, it will be a bitterly disappointing harvest.