North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Summit of the Americas, held in Colombia, ends in disarray

This really isn't much of a story - which is too bad, because it would be great to hear of significant progress being made in the Western Hemisphere on the many issues among its many nations - one of which happens to be the world's economic and military superpower.

Yes, there are thirty five countries in the Western Hemisphere, all in the Organization of American States (OAS) which organizes the Summits

Before the Summit of the Americas, the BBC article narrative to the event read this way:

"The colonial Colombian city of Cartagena has become, once again, a fortress as it prepares to host the Summit of the Americas. Submarines and warships are protecting the bay, aeroplanes and helicopters are patrolling the Caribbean sky. Only those involved with the summit are being allowed inside the walled old town, where leaders of 33 countries in the western hemisphere, excluding Cuba and Ecuador, are meeting this weekend.

The beautiful coastal city of Cartagena

For Colombia, the summit offers a great opportunity to show its best face and all the progress it has made since the violence-ravaged 1990s. But, more importantly, the host country also aims to reassert itself as an increasingly influential regional player, ideally placed to bring Latin America and the United States closer together after years of drifting apart.

Colombia, hosting the Summit this year, has a long history of unneeded conflict and unfulfilled promise.

Indeed, Washington's influence in regional affairs is a shadow of what it once was. "Brazil is now Latin America's dominant economic power. Its influence in regional affairs, especially in South America, rivals that of the United States," said a report this month from the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based think-tank."

During the event, President Obama's Secret Service advance team disgraced itself when there was a row at the hotel where the President would be staying, because some prostitutes demanded pay from the security personnel. Eleven-twelve (the number keeps changing) Secret Service agents were sent home, the President was embarrassed, the news media found the story the most sellable of anything else happening.

The advance security team of the US Secret Service disgraced itself and a dozen or so agents were sent home early. Their actions embarrassed the US and offended Colombia's efforts to portray itself in the best light.

As the Summit ended, the story ran this way:

A meeting of the heads of state of the Western Hemisphere has ended without a joint declaration. The leaders failed to reach agreement on whether Cuba should attend the next gathering. The US and Canada opposed demands by the Latin American nations to invite Cuba to the next Summit of the Americas to be held in Panama in 2015. Ecuador's President Rafael Correa had boycotted the summit in protest at the lack of an invitation for Cuba.

The pomp and spectacle of the Summit opening did not translate into meaningful conclusions - but on the other hand, didn't set back any particular national relations.

The summit's host, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, denied the meeting had been a failure. "Who thought that an agreement would be reached here about the Falklands and Cuba?" he asked, referring to the two subjects which had most divided opinion.

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (left), and Colombia's President, Juan Manuel Santos (right)

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez left the summit before its official closing ceremony. Diplomatic sources said she was frustrated that no agreement was reached to include a declaration of support for Argentina's claim to the Falkland Islands in the summit's final statement. President Santos said she had bid him goodbye with the "usual friendship and affection". But asked what Ms Fernandez had whispered to him after his opening speech, Mr Santos said: "You forgot to mention the Malvinas", in a reference to his omission of the subject in his remarks.

Besides Cuba's lack of participation in the Summit, and Argentina's disappointment that the country's claim for sovereignty over the Falkland Islands/Malvinas was not given, much of the conference was focused on more mundane, or at least technical, items such as technology and communications sharing, and nurturing the investment climate. The other topic that had generated some heat was the hemisphere's continuing drug trafficking and intra-cartel gang violence. The violence is a huge, and under-reported issue. Over 50,000 people have died in Mexico alone since 2006 from the war on drugs by the Mexican government and the fight for control among various drug cartels over access to the US border and share of the market.

Perhaps a sad commentary that Teatree can only recognize by sight six or seven Western Hemisphere leaders at any given time: President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Harper, Argentine President Fernandez, Brazil President Rousseff, Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, and Bolivian President Evo Morales.

So, on we go. Much was on this Summit of the Americas agenda, just about as much remains for the future.


Sarah said...

Ummm, I'm guessing that recognizing 6 leaders by sight is far better than the majority (certainly me!) Also, thanks for the previous post about The Falklands - so nice to read this account of the summit and actually know what one of the controversies was about without having to "catch-up".

Teatree said...

The primary issue of Secret Service agents and prostitutes is not the obviously moral one, but a security concern, as described in this article by the New York Times ...

Ben said...

Is prostitution illegal in Columbia? There was no mention of that in the NYTimes article. Even if it is illegal, I would assume the Secret Service agents are under immunity anyway, so the investigation into their conduct would presumably have to do with a) security breaches (as you mentioned) or b) conduct violations on the job.(Intoxication, prostitution? Are these prohibited in the Secret Service?)

More importantly, this may be a window into the current world crisis where women are being exploited around the world and the prostitution and sexual slavery kingpins find their profits in the wallets of those who have money to pay. When wealthy foreigners participate, this further erodes a sense of accountability, both on a legal and personal level.

Reminds me of these lyrics by Jack Johnson:

Such a tough enchilada, filled up with nada,
Givin what you gotta give to get a dollar bill.
Used to be a limber chicken, times have been a ticking,
Now she's finger lickin to the man,
With the money in his pocket, flying in his rocket,
Only stopping by on his way to a better world.

Teatree said...

Article from the Miami Herald, with the headlines, "Carnal Cartagena blase about sex scandal"

Prostitution is legal, and apparently Cartagena's "escort industry" is a big part of the city's tourism draw.