Other View: Summit of (some of) the Americas is here

Vice President Kamala Harris hosts a roundtable with business executives as part of her Call to Action for northern Central America during the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS
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It’s unfortunate the Summit of the Americas being held in Los Angeles this week has been overshadowed by controversy over the Biden administration blocking the attendance of the authoritarian leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

That decision led Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to boycott the event.

Although the summit involves a lot of posturing, it’s still important for the countries of the Western Hemisphere to get together and discuss matters of regional significance, from immigration to trade. Southern California, after all, has become the hub of the vast Pacific Rim economy connecting the United States, Latin America and Asia.

There is no doubting the destructive policies, and philosophies, of the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. But merely barring them from a summit will do nothing to help the people of those notions. It does, however, cut off the sort of ongoing dialogue needed to pressure such countries to change their ways.

We already know that the United States’ tough stance toward Cuba has failed to bring about change. The sanctions against Cuba were imposed by President Kennedy to remove from power dictator Fidel Castro six decades ago. He remained in power until retiring in 2008.


The experience of greater trade and other contacts with Eastern European countries in the 1980s, when they were Soviet “satellites,” should be the model. It showed greater exposure to U.S. businesses, tourists and diplomats was the best way to loosen tensions and promote movements for freedom. The people there started asking: Why can’t we, too, enjoy freedom and capitalist prosperity? Soon enough, the Berlin Wall fell and the former satellites became free and indeed today most are part of NATO.

Vice President Kamala Harris’ portfolio includes leading policy on immigration from Latin America. She has emphasized economic development to help people flourish in their homelands. At the summit Tuesday, she announced more than $1.9 billion in new private investment in the region. For us, that’s a much better policy than the counterproductive sanctions and hollow exclusions from the summit.

The best way to advance freedom is to practice it.

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