The United States received polite nods, if not firm commitment, from leaders of Southeast Asia at the Asean meeting in Washington for its regional pivot last week. It now faces a much more rebellious bunch from Latin America in the Summit of the Americas next month. If it’s hoping for an Asean repeat in the western hemisphere, it will likely be disappointed. At this moment, key countries are threatening a boycott so there is the question of whether the summit, to be held in Los Angeles, will go ahead; and even if it does, how many leaders will show up? The problem is that President Joe Biden wants to continue with his “democracies vs authoritarianism” crusade. As a result, the White House says it will not invite Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela. That has received vocal rebuke and disapproval from numerous South American and Caribbean countries. Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, also known by his initials AMLO, has threatened to skip the summit if the leaders of the three countries are not invited. Bolivia’s President Luis Arce and the president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, have said the same. Likewise, CARICOM, the Caribbean Community of 15 member countries, has yet to decide on participation because of the controversy. Lopez Obrador’s open criticism must be particularly galling. In March, he responded angrily after Washington tried to pressure him to join sanctions against Russia. Last month, Mexico abstained in a vote on suspending Russia from the United Nations’ human rights body. As a matter of both moral principle and realpolitik, the countries’ reaction is predictable and fully justified. Biden is overplaying his cards. Set up during the administration of Bill Clinton, the summit is not about democracy promotion, which is perceived as an excuse for Washington to interfere with countries in the region. US moves to warm Cuba ties with expanded flights, business aid Its mission statement says: “The Summits of the Americas are institutionalised gatherings of the heads of state and government of the western hemisphere where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced in the Americas. ” In fact, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela all play a key part in issues and problems confronting the region today. There is no basis to reject them merely on Uncle Sam’s say-so. Meanwhile, Biden’s attempt to pressure neighbouring countries to isolate the three countries with leftist regimes carried more than a whiff of the old imperialistic and anti-communist America. The Caribbean and South American countries may have their differences and conflicts, but one thing they have in common is that they have all been invaded or interfered with by the US military and intelligence services repeatedly in the past two centuries. It’s hypocritically absurd to play the human rights and “democracies vs authoritarianism” games when Washington had overthrown democratically elected governments and supported right-wing dictators in the region during the Cold War and long before it. Meanwhile, its decades-long war on drugs has actually fuelled internal and interstate conflicts in a region where most countries still hold developing-nation status. Chinese embassy reopens after Nicaragua cuts Taiwan ties What is unspoken is that what authoritarianism means in Washington means “against China” and its growing influence in the Americas. Also undeclared is that the western hemisphere is considered within the US’ sphere of influence, its own backyard. However, these days, most of these countries want more trade and investment from China, not less. The US also gives the game away in that to “contain” and isolate China, it needs help from many authoritarian governments around the world that are expressly anti-democratic. Washington now faces three outcomes for the summit, all of which are embarrassing. It can invite those three countries that were initially unwelcome. It can continue with its anti-authoritarian game and risk a boycott. Lastly, it can call off the summit. The time when what the US says goes in Latin America is long past. Some Americans apparently still have not realised that.