About twenty leaders took part until Friday in the summit of the Americas, organized for a week by the American president and the tenors of his executive, who multiplied their commitments in favor of better cooperation on migration, clean energy and healthcare facilities — while entertaining them with lavish, Hollywood-style receptions.

“No matter what happens in the world, the Americas will always be a priority for the United States of America”, hammered a Joe Biden monopolized for months by the war in Ukraine, expressing the wish to see his continent to become “the most forward-looking, most democratic, most prosperous, most peaceful and most secure” in the world.

But the Democratic president also had to take the boycott of his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, nicknamed AMLO, and the criticism of many leaders, in particular against the maintenance of the policy of pressure on Cuba and more broadly on his ability to keep his commitments. .

2023 will mark the bicentenary of the Monroe Doctrine defining Latin America as the backyard of the United States, but the anniversary will be veiled by the shadow of an increasingly formidable competitor.

China, erected by Washington as the number one rival, quickly became the second largest trading partner of Latin America and even the first of South America, which massively sells its raw materials, from soybeans to oil, to the Asian giant.

The communist country has lent $150 billion to Latin American states since 2005, nearly half of it to Venezuela, officially without political strings attached but plunging some of them into what critics describe as a “debt trap”. “.

– Modest ambitions –

At the summit, President Biden dangled a continental economic “partnership” to promote harmonization, without however promising cold hard cash or new access to the American market.

In Washington, the mood is no longer for major free trade agreements. And extreme political divisions make any ambitious move in Congress unlikely — out of step with Joe Biden’s strenuous promotion of the democratic model.

“It was a mistake to organize a summit with so little to offer,” laments Christopher Sabatini, of the Chatham House think tank.

“The idea that the continent shares the same principles and goals just in the name of neighborhood is over,” he says. “The United States does not have the means to offer much.”

Jake Sullivan, diplomatic adviser to the White House, argued that the American strategy was not to provide public funding, and that trade agreements already existed with Mexico, Colombia and even Chile.

And to compete with the Chinese model, the Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke of “structural reforms” at the Inter-American Development Bank, of which Washington is the first donor, so that it helps more middle-income countries – not poor enough to benefit from the most advantageous loans.

– “Alternative globale” – 

Analyzing the loss of American influence over the past decade, Ryan Berg, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes that the United States can only blame itself for having “left the continent, considered for granted its contribution to stability and prosperity, and been unable to bring the resources and the creativity necessary to propose a comprehensive and meaningful alternative to China’s financing of development”.

Until recently, the absence of the President of Mexico at a summit organized by his big neighbor would have been unimaginable.

However, AMLO snubbed him to protest against Joe Biden’s refusal to invite the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, considered in Washington as autocrats.

The American president nevertheless took care, in Los Angeles, to exchange with counterparts ranging from the far right, meeting the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro for the first time, to the left-wing leaders of Chile and Argentina.

Jason Marczak, in charge of Latin America at the Atlantic Council, another Washington think tank, acknowledges that the participation was higher than at the previous Summit of the Americas, in 2018 in Peru, where Donald Trump, then president, n had not gone.

He relativizes the “pre-summit tensions”, “usual”, and believes that Joe Biden has been able to identify the interests of his southern neighbors.

However, “many announcements must be followed by concrete measures, and it is absolutely necessary to make them a priority”, he warns.