Latin American summit in Argentina claimed to defend democracy but did the opposite
The summit of heads of state of the 33 countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) ended Tuesday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with grandiose speeches in favor of democracy, but actually turned out to be a show of support for dictators and putschists.
For starters, Cuban dictator Miguel Diaz Canel, alongside the foreign ministers of Venezuela and Nicaragua, was allowed to sit at the table on equal footing with democratically elected leaders. This gave these totalitarian regimes a political legitimacy they rarely receive in international gatherings.
Worse still, the host of the summit, populist Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez, told the meeting that “everyone here was elected by their people.”
This was not just a blatant lie, but an insult to people’s intelligence. Cuba has not allowed free elections for the past 64 years, banned all opposition political parties and does not allow a single non-governmental newspaper, radio or television station. There are no fair elections in Cuba.
Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro won re-election in a 2018 mock election in which he banned opposition candidates, censored the media and banned international observers. More than 50 global democracies have declared Maduro illegitimate president after his election fraud.
Nicaraguan strongman Daniel Ortega won re-election to a fourth consecutive term in the rigged 2021 election, in which he jailed or banned all of the most popular opposition candidates. All three countries are accused of massive human rights violations.
You can argue that Argentina has the right to welcome all CELAC members, regardless of their democratic credentials, just as the US government welcomes dignitaries from China or other dictatorships to international meetings in Washington, D.C. But Argentina went the extra mile and claimed its three totalitarian amigos are democratically elected presidents.
Maduro originally vowed to attend the summit but stayed home at the last minute after Argentina’s opposition leaders called for his international arrest. The US government has offered a $15 million reward for Maduro’s capture after charging him with drug trafficking.
In addition to helping legitimize the regimes of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, several presidents at the CELAC summit backed former Peruvian President Pedro Castillo’s failed December 7 coup in Peru.
The Colombian and Mexican presidents gave impassioned speeches in defense of Castillo, who was rightfully removed from office by Congress after his attempted coup.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told the summit that “it is infamy what was done to Pedro Castillo and the way they are repressing the people” in Peru.
In fact, Castillo announced in a nationally televised address that he was dissolving Congress and would rule by decree – the very definition of a coup to seize absolute power.
Also at the summit, Argentina’s president and Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, gave a hero’s welcome to former Bolivian president Evo Morales, himself a serial constitutional offender.
Morales illegally ran for a fourth term in 2019 and declared himself the winner of a sham election before being forced to resign. Peruvian authorities recently banned him from entering the country, accusing him of inciting violence in Peru.
Among the few voices who defended fundamental freedoms at the CELAC summit were the center-left president of Chile, Gabriel Boric, and the center-right president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle.
The 28-page final declaration from the CELAC summit amounts to a wish list on trade, environment, education and dozens of other major issues. He did not mention the Peruvian crisis, probably because CELAC’s final declarations must be approved by consensus.
In a special section on Cuba, CELAC’s final statement calls on the United Nations to seek an end to the US trade embargo on Cuba and demands that the United States remove Cuba from the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. But the statement does not ask Cuba to hold free elections or release political prisoners.
The last paragraph of the declaration announced that the next CELAC summit would be chaired by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, whose Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, is a close ally of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, and is in power without interruption for 22 years.
In short, the CELAC summit paid homage to democracy, but actually supported dictators and putschists.
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