'We Could Have Done Much Better': Americas Leaders Agree on Migration but Little Else 

By Nora Gámez Torres

"Leaders seemed to want to focus on the things that divide the region, including the attendance list," said AS/COA's Eric Farnsworth to the Miami Herald.

When 20 countries in the Western Hemisphere agreed on a set of migration policies on the sidelines of a regional gathering last week in Los Angeles, president Joe Biden called it “a historic commitment.” But while the migration deal seems the central outcome of the Ninth Summit of the Americas, it was primarily a U.S. priority and not even part of the event’s official agenda — adding to the disconnect felt by some leaders who traveled to L.A. eager to engage with the United States on issues like trade, investment and financing but left without a breakthrough…

But if the summit was short of more concrete or ambitious propositions, as many observers noted, it was not all the administration’s fault. Many populist leaders in the region, like Mexico’s López Obrador or the Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez, chose during discussions about the summit or even their time at the event’s plenary sessions to play domestic politics and back up the regimes in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, highlighting the erosion of democratic values since the first hemispheric gathering in 1994. Rather than discussing challenges like inflation, debt and economic recovery from the pandemic, “leaders seemed to want to focus on the things that divide the region, including the attendance list,” said Eric Farnsworth, a former State Department official and vice president of Americas Society/Council of the Americas. “It all adds up to a region that is heading in the wrong direction and a distracted Washington that views the region primarily through a domestic lens,” he added. “Collectively, with a different vision for regional cooperation and mutual interest, we could have done much better.”

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