Invite Cuba to a regional summit, no. Go to Saudi Arabia, yes, and maybe even meet “MBS” there. A self-proclaimed champion of democracies, Joe Biden has been accused of cynicism and even hypocrisy for his ambivalent diplomatic stance in recent months.
In an interview with reporters on Monday at a regional summit with Latin America currently being held in Los Angeles, a senior White House official found himself on the defensive.
What is the point of excluding Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from this “Summit of the Americas” because of “reservations” about democracy and human rights, while at the same time the 79-year-old Democrat talks about a trip? in Saudi Arabia?
“Cabbage and carrots”
“It’s a bit like comparing cabbage and carrots,” said the White House official. “This does not imply a different approach depending on the region.” All this remains embarrassing for Joe Biden, who sees himself as the champion of democracies against autocracies, and who is not stingy with moral outrage.
a report pointing to the responsibility of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed ben Salmane in the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and had promised to make the oil kingdom an “outcast” on the international stage. However, according to the American press, he is considering a meeting with “MBS”.
“And [Joe Biden] decides that it is in the interest of the United States to make contact with a foreign leader and that this contact can bring results, so he will, ”his spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday.
“Pure cynicism,” according to Robert Guttman, who teaches political science at Johns Hopkins University. “The midterm elections (in November) are approaching and everyone wants Biden, and he needs to show that he is doing something.”
The role of oil
If “everyone wants Biden,” it’s because of the pump prices that keep going up. This exasperates Americans and jeopardizes Democrats’ chances of retaining control of Congress.
So Joe Biden thinks he has everything to gain from a drop in the price of black gold, if Riyadh agrees to produce more. Conversely, he cannot expect any political benefit from a dialogue with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. On the contrary, the Republican opposition would fire red bullets at any rapprochement, especially with the communist regime in Havana.
So the president is “betting that Americans will be blinded by a drop in gas prices and won’t notice that he’s getting closer to autocrats and dictators,” Andrea Prasow, executive director of the ‘NGO Freedom Initiative.
Bruce Jentleson, a professor at Duke University, believes the planned trip to Saudi Arabia is also a strategic mistake. “What worries me is that we feel like we’re going to bed” in front of Riyadh. “I do not believe that an increase in Saudi oil production would have a significant effect on the price of gasoline. So it’s counterproductive, both in terms of democracy and in terms of balance of power, ”he deciphers.
Delicate interview with Jair Bolsonaro
In Los Angeles, Joe Biden also scheduled his first bilateral meeting with Brazilian far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
A tricky interview: Washington is publicly concerned about the maneuvers of the Brazilian head of state, who is running for a second term, to challenge his country’s electoral system.
This is not the first time that the Biden administration has been caught red-handed in ambivalence between democratic ambitions and diplomatic interests, such as its desire to meet China’s ambitions.
When he recently hosted the Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the US president, for example, shunned Burma, but called for regimes that are not exactly seen as models of democracy. for example Laos and Cambodia.
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