No, this is not going to be about the spat between Uribe and Chavez, where Chavez was exposed and humiliated once again but where Uribe did not look too good either. The surprise here was not Chavez trying to grab headlines, that is about the only thing he can do these days, for which he is willing to do anything, as silly as it might be. No, the surprise was that a normally cool Uribe lost it. Or did he?
The Cancun "summit" early this week was supposed to bring together Central America, the Caribbean and South America sans US of A and Canada. The mystery here is why so many heads of state allowed themselves to be manipulated as such, including surprisingly Felipe Calderon of Mexico who should know better. Or does he indeed?
One of the proposals floating around, from Chavez, or the Castros (does it matter?) was to create an OAS without North America for which Chavez proposed Lula, about to be jobless in less than a year, to chair over. And yet Lula did not try to grab headlines and surprisingly it was Raul Castro who came out as the peacemaker holding Uribe and Chavez apart from a fist fight. Or was that his nature been revealed to all?
I am not too sure what really goes on, but among so many pundits why not indulge myself.
First, Uribe outburst. I think it was sort of planned. Why? Because it seems that Uribe is not going to be able to run for reelection after all. So, as the statesman he is he decided to sacrifice himself in part, to have it out with Chavez and either mend relations for his successor, or leave it near war. War of course is not nice and it is not what Uribe wants since the FARC is at war already with him. And a war with Venezuela is not necessary as the country is imploding on its own; but its implosion will create displaced masses at the borders and political trouble there. Quite a lot like the consequences of war, you know... What I mean here is that Uribe wants his successor to reach the Casa de Nariño with the Colombian public opinion having a clear outlook at what the permanence of Chavez means for them.
Let's not forget one thing, if Uribe and Chavez look a lot alike in their political ambition and authoritarian outlook of rule, Uribe is also a statesman and he works ALSO for Colombia whereas Chavez ONLY WORKS for himself. Big, big difference there!
Let's go on now to the real reason of the summit. It is another episode of the war for control of the Americas between Brazil and the USA.
Why?, you may ask since the US was not present.
True, it was not there but Mexico was and that is what explains the role of Calderon, who in spite of his NAFTA treaty with he US pretended to agree, as if nothing, to create a non-OAS OAS like structure minus, Canada and the US. Calderon simply let Brazil know that if it wanted such a structure so as to increase its hemispheric influence it would find Mexico across the table fighting it back, or at least for its own area of influence. Look at the votes: Mexico is next door to many small countries whereas Brazil is, well, far away. A little independent Caribbean island can easily be bought by Mexico as it knows full well that there more tropical tourism to expect from the US than from Brazil. We call that a Trojan horse too, Mexico that is, for the US, if needed.
That is why the US was just fine about the Cancun summit, not offended at all by the apparent snub, letting Brazil start a premature exhaustion and, let's not be afraid of full speculation, serving Brazil notice that if it wants to exclude the US it would also have to foot the bill for the potential failed states that border it. I mean Venezuela and Bolivia. Want them? Have them!
Which bring us to the last item, the relative discretion of Lula and the figuring of Castro.
First there is the amazingly disconcerting wish for too many in Latin America to want to figure with the Castro brothers, something that is not possible at the OAS. Why there is such an overlook of the crimes committed in Cuba is a mystery that cannot be explained alone by the past silly leftism of people like Lula or Bachelet. While the meeting took place yet another tortured hunger strike political prisoner died in Cuba. As if nothing Lula and Chavez traveled to Havana after Cancun. Only Europe and the US have complained, the rest of Latin America so far keeps silent! The shame!
And there is the reason why Lula was discreet and Raul Castro the peace maker. The OAS is now a very nasty restrain to many countries which are embarking into serial human rights violations. In particular Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia (though other countries could soon find themselves into the shooting field, namely Colombia, Honduras, Paraguay and Mexico). Many really are sorry they signed the Interamerican chart of the OAS for the protection of Human Rights a few years ago. Not only they are getting afraid that it could be applied to them, but other countries like Brazil are afraid that they will have to vote on its application as this could kill its business in these countries where rights are violated. In other words since we are a continent of cowards, victims and victimizers, so to speak, would like to get out of the OAS obligations (that they are already failing, look at Colombia supporting Insulza reelection!). What best but to leave the OAS for another organization without such restraints? And which holds its meetings in nice places like Cancun allowing heads of states to take a vacation and slap each other's backs.
Heck! Even Chavez was already promoting Lula for that new organization as the best candidate to preside it. I bet he is! But that was a tad too early for Lula, with Mexico so clearly and energetically stepping in, a rather disconcerting surprise for the imperial Brazilian foreign service.
So Lula stayed quiet, letting Raul Castro shine. Astounding!
Which makes Lula the biggest loser as his foreign policy since the Honduras crisis has been accumulating mistakes, missteps and empty results. He did not do much there, tried to be discreet, but when you look at it he was the one with the highest expectations, did not fulfill them and went on to Cuba to support murder! He is in great danger to mess up his record a few months before leaving office, and carry down with him his appointed successor, Dilma Roussef, which from all I can read about her is not a very promising ruler at all!
The biggest winner here? Believe it or not Canada and the US! After the disastrous Bush years for the US relations, and its image, with Latin America (I know, I know, many reasons but the result is there and Obama has to deal with it) the US was in a nearly impossible situation. And yet, with Honduras conclusion, and now this absentee good point, I must say that so far Obama's team policy toward Latin America is overall doing much better than I was expecting at first!