“America has regressed more than a century in equity”
by CArlos matÍAS
“America is the most unequal region on the planet. We have gone back more than a century.” The Summit of the Americas held June 6-10 in Los Angeles, California, has been “a lost opportunity” and has evidenced the loss of influence of the United States and its distancing from Latin America. “There was no talk of democracy or human rights.” These are the conclusions of Óscar Chacón (Americas Alliance) and Santiago Cantón (Rule of Law and Inter-American Dialogue Program). But they do not feel disappointed by this; they were already afraid it would happen and did not expect much from it.
“In justice, equity and distribution of wealth, America is worse off than in 1920,” assures Oscar Chacon, executive director of Alianza Américas, in a videoconference with Sol de Medianoche from Los Angeles, California, where the IX Summit of the Americas has taken place, the first held in U.S. territory. “The Americas is the region with the most inequalities on the planet (economic, social, political, racial, ethnic...) In terms of equity, we have gone back more than a century,” Chacón told our newspaper. Alianza Americas is a coalition of more than 50 migrant-led organizations in 18 U.S. states. “I don’t want to say that in 1920 there weren’t problems of discrimination and inequality, which there were. But the migration phenomenon is happening on a massive scale now, not then, and it is the biggest factor of social breakdown at all levels.”
The day after our interview with Chacón, Alianza Americas issued a statement to say that “the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration falls short in strengthening protections for asylum seekers.” The Summit has been “a missed opportunity to address the systemic inequalities that drive migration.” “This Declaration in no way represents a truly new approach to migration in the Americas,” says Óscar Chacón. “Tens of thousands of people live in painful uncertainty at the U.S.-Mexico border, and the U.S. response is to detain and deport en masse, and to expedite people’s asylum claims through a new asylum rule. Where is the U.S. commitment to uphold due process for asylum seekers through fair and timely procedures, and to protect those fleeing the violence and disasters of climate change? It is not by doing that.”
“The IX Summit has only served to confirm the loss of influence of the United States and the mutual estrangement with Latin America,” says Santiago Canton, director of the Peter D. Bell Rule of Law Program of the Inter-American Dialogue and visiting international professor at the Washington College of Law, American University, in Washington D.C.
Santiago Cantón was political advisor to President Jimmy Carter for democratic development programs in Latin American countries. “It has been a Summit in which they have talked a lot and said almost nothing,” he told Sol de Medianoche, “The Summit knows what it has to do to address migration with a different perspective. It cannot be that migrants are treated as criminals and are not given the option to access education, health, or work opportunities. Nor have they talked about democracy and human rights.”
Chacón points out “In the United States there are 11.5 million unfilled jobs. Workers are needed. At the border with Mexico, migrants who want to enter the United States are crowded together and they are not allowed to pass. There are not even the 11.5 million people needed to fill the labor shortage. They could be allowed to enter the country and trained to fill part of those vacancies. This would contribute to social integration.” Oscar Chacón is also concerned “about climate migrants. Global warming is causing more and more human migrations. What is going to happen to all of them?” The most positive thing about these days is not framed in the Summit of the Americas itself, but in another parallel one, the People’s Summit for Democracy. “It is an initiative that has told the public authorities and politicians that there is another way of doing things,” says Chacón. “By always doing the same thing, we do not get different results, and we see where they are taking us. The People’s Summit for Democracy has been a wake-up call and I hope it bears fruit.”
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