Mexico and Brazil Balk at Washington’s Notion of Democracy

It’s an understatement to say that President Biden’s second “Summit for Democracy” on March 28-30 was not the success he had planned. The president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, called it “a bad idea that won’t go away”, given that “American democracy is hardly a model for others”. And Financial Times editor Edward Luce pointed to the “almost uniformly negative” record of the United States on democracy in the Middle East.

The final declaration prepared by the White House contained a condemnation of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, which was challenged by two major participants, Brazil and Mexico. Brazil’s President Lula, who declined to even attend the plenary session, refused to sign the statement, because he disagreed with the use of the summit to condemn Russia’s actions, according to Globo. Mexico’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) did sign, but with a reservation maintaining his opposition to the paragraph that deplores the consequences of Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine.

AMLO had already created waves in the brief remarks he delivered to the Summit, by recalling that “Many of the greatest crimes against humanity have been done in the name of God or in the name of democracy”. After that attention-grabber, he proceeded to remind the other Presidents and Prime Ministers participating in his panel (a stony-faced Ursula von der Leyen included), that in some countries, under the façade of democracy, it is the oligarchy which rules. How can you speak of democracy, he asked, when economic elites rule, accumulating the most offensive wealth in history, while billions of people live on less than a dollar a day.

A few days before, on March 21, the Mexican President had denounced the hypocrisy of the U.S. State Department and its annual Human Rights Report. What if Mexico were to evaluate the United States, he asked. Why is Julian Assange still imprisoned, why did the government blow up the Nord Stream pipeline, why is the drug cartel allowed to operate freely in the U.S.? And concerning the expected indictment of Donald Trump, he commented that if he was arrested, everyone would know it was for electoral reasons, which is “completely undemocratic. Why not let the people be the ones who decide?” And to top it off, he offered Trump political asylum, if he so wishes.

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