This Latino Week

Summit Of The Americas Ends In Failure, Ecuadorian Reports Confirmed Dead, Copa America Femenina Update
by: 
Jim McKenna

Summit Of The Americas Ends In Failure

The Summit Of The Americas, one of the leading bilateral conferences for the region, was this week in Lima, Peru; the 8th edition of the meeting, which was first held in 1994 in Miami. The two-day event, however, was largely a non-starter, due to the lack of U.S. President Donald Trump, along with a host of other leaders, who were unable to attend the event for a range of reasons. This meant that the Summit, one of the few times that a wide range of North and Latin American nations can collaborate and discuss issues, was largely destined to fail from the beginning. The Summit has had a long and chequered history, starting from Bill Clinton's attempts to introduce American-led cooperation in the Post-Cold War era, to the kick back against U.S. actions from left-leaning Latin American leaders, to the relatively jovial atmosphere of the last conference in 2015, following President Obama's decision to normalise relations with Cuba, something which was well-received by most of Latin America.

The issues began earlier this year, when hosts Peru revoked Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's invitation, due to his decision to hold an election after barring most major opposition candidates from standing. Maduro initially postured and claimed he would attend the event anyway, but decided against doing so last week, and Venezuela instead sent an opposition Deputy, Delsa Solorzano, who is Vice President of opposition group "A New Era". But this was not the sole problem. Donald Trump withdrew, officially due to the escalation of the Syrian Civil War in recent weeks and the U.S. response, but Trump is the first U.S. leader to refuse to attend the event since Bill Clinton started the Summit in 1994. He was replaced by Vice President Mike Pence. His failure to show was copied by Raul Castro, despite many presuming he would attend to bid farewell to his regional allies before he steps down from the presidency this year. In addition to this, the presidents of Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Paraguay also decided to stay at home, due to a combination of domestic emergencies (such as an Ecuadorian kidnapping scandal), and solidarity with Maduro. The Summit was also embarassed by the official discussion topic of corruption, which has dominated the host nation Peru, and led to the downfall of former President Pedro Pablo kuczynski earlier this month. 

In the event, the Summit was noticeably low-key, and dominated by the unofficial theme of how best to respond to Venezuela in a year where Maduro is likely to be re-elected in an election that will almost definitely be called illegitimate by the United States. The Summit was lacking major bilateral decisions, or any diplomatic triumph, similar to Obama and Castro being able to show a more intimate relationship in an era of normalisation. The more interesting aspects of the past few days were anti-American rhetoric from the likes of Bolivian President Evo Morales, and the interesting response to discussions on how to clamp down on corruption by leaders mired in corruption scandals relating to themselves or their close allies, such as Brazilian President Michel Temer. What this overall failure says for the future of the Summit, which has long been symbolic of the United States' interest in leading the region, is impossible to say. The next Summit should be held in 2021, but considering the scale of change in U.S. and Latin American society and politics in the past three years, who knows what situation will be visible by the time of the next Summit.

Ecuadorian Reports Confirmed Dead

Lenin Moreno, the President of Ecuador, returned home from the Summit of the Americas to confirm that two journalists and their driver had been found dead, after they were abducted last month by a dissident faction of the Colombian FARC, whose main body are attempting to gain political legitimacy in Congress, following the signing of a historic peace deal.

The three men - Javier Ortega, Paul Rivas and Efrain Segarra - worked for Ecuador's El Comercio newspaper, were taken on March 26 near the village of Mataje. Despite public pleas for their return, the dissident group had little interest in giving them up, and their bodies were identified earlier this week.

President Moreno gave an emotional speech, declaring that he would not allow himself or his country to be intimidated, and promised a $100,000 reward for anyone who could provide information about the leader of the dissident group, who goes by the alias Gaucho. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has promised assistance wherever possible.

More than 1,000 former FARC members are believed to now be part of dissident groups, who reject the peace deal and have continued lives of criminality. Ecuador is involved in this as most of the rebels rely on drug trafficking as a source of income, much of which comes from around the Colombian-Ecuadorian border. Moreno announced plans in March for 12,000 extra soldiers and police officers to combat the gangs responsible.

 Copa America Femenina Update

The leading tournament for South American women's football was reached its final stage this week, with a four-team group that will decide not only the winner of the tournament, but the qualifiers to the 2019 Women's World Cup and the 2020 Olympic Games. 

The fact that the competition is being held at all is noteworthy, with women's football in South America stagnating in recent years due to years of neglect from Football Associations, who instead invested money in the male game. However, the future is bright for female footballers in the region. The success of Latin American teams in the last Women's World Cup, and the introduction of more stable funding and professionalism, has led to the current Femenina being one of the highest-quality female football events the region has seen.

The first stage involved two groups of five teams, out of which the top two groups would advance. Group A saw a largely dominant Colombia, who represented the region at the last Women's World Cup in 2015 and are one of the favourites to win, joined by hosts Chile, who narrowly advanced over Paraguay. Group B saw traditional regional powerhouses Argentina and Brazil advance. Brazil, one of the world's leading teams in both the men and women's game, were entirely dominant in their group. They won all four games while scoring 22 goals, and conceding a mere one. 

The final group stage will take place over this week, with the final set of games on April 22. Brazil are heavily fancied, but Colombia are sure to provide a firm challenge, led by Catalina Usme, the tournament's leading scorer with nine goals. Their clash, on April 19, is likely to be the most important game of the entire event.