Summit of the Americas

A meeting on the sidelines of the 2015 Summit. (AP)


LatAm in Focus: What the Summit of the Americas Was, Is, and Could Be

By Carin Zissis

In light of the VIII Summit in Lima, AS/COA Vice President Eric Farnsworth covers the issues on the table and ways the event can become more effective. 

Back in 1994, the first Summit of the Americas took place in the Cold War’s wake, as civil wars ended in Central America, and amid growing faith in democracy. But fast-forward and, over time, the Summit became increasingly marked by divisions.

The next one takes place in Lima on April 13 and 14 and faces several challenges for making substantive accords. For one, several presidents won’t be in attendance, including Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. He was supposed to serve as host but had to step down from the Peruvian presidency amid a corruption scandal just weeks ahead of the Summit, which has anti-corruption as its main theme. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been uninvited due to his plans to push forward the date of an election. And U.S. President Donald Trump canceled last minute, with plans to send the vice president in his place.

[The eighth Summit will] reflect the spirit of our times in the hemisphere.”
Eric Farnsworth

But they're not the only ones who might not be there. “The newly elected presidents won't be at the Summit,” says AS/COA's Vice President Eric Farnsworth, making the point that a number of the biggest economies in Latin America—Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico included—are holding elections this year and will soon have new heads of state. Farnsworth tells Latin America in Focus host Carin Zissis that, with lame ducks in attendance, countries will have a hard time making good on agreements reached, if there are any.

Reaching accords was already difficult in recent Summits, so what’s the future of the meeting? Farnsworth, who attended the first one in Miami, covers how the Summit has shifted over the years and suggests ways forward. One way might involve giving up on trying to achieve consensus. “In order to make progress as a hemisphere going forward, it’s going to make sense to sit down in a summit context with the countries that share values and interests—not the countries that just happen to be together by accident of geography,” says Farnsworth.

Luisa Leme produced this podcast episode.

The music in this podcast, "Blue Gust" by Chris Washburne, was performed by Bobby Sanabria and the Multiverse Big band with Patrick Bartley at Americas Society in New York. Learn more about upcoming concerts at