The presidents of
The four leaders, who are preparing to launch a free trade bloc in June that will be known as the
Whether it's a first or not, it's a great idea, for reasons that go far beyond the potential savings.
There are more than a dozen Latin American regional and sub-regional economic summits a year, plus several political ones, not counting Latin American summits with U.S., European and Asian countries, and bilateral summits.
Most of them are expensive exercises of political tourism, in which presidents take huge entourages of journalists aboard their presidential planes to chronicle their speeches tailored for domestic consumption. In fact, much like at
Remember when Venezuelan President
I recently asked former Peruvian President
"Each president goes with his prepared speech to these summits, and is only interested in how they will play back home," Garcia told me. "It's a dialogue of the deaf."
"Normally, presidents take their state television networks and private television channels with them. Their delegations look like caravans of camels in the dessert," Garcia said, adding that he used to travel by commercial plane, with a very small delegation.
(As he spoke, I couldn't help recalling that one of the first things Chávez did upon taking office was buying a
"And in these summits, presidents go with their memorized speech to blame somebody else for their problems, whether it is Uncle Sam or the 'horrendous' international financial system," Garcia said. "They do that instead of doing what they should be doing, which is not seeking re-elections, or a rise in the polls, but work for the people."
Asked what he would do to make these summits more productive, he said: "I would have two days a year in which we could have all these summits together." In other words, all 34 presidents of the Americas could meet once a year, and hold their separate sub-regional and issue-specific summits then and there, he said.
My opinion: It's about time presidents are held accountable for wasting millions of dollars a year in personal propaganda trips, without any visible results for their nations.
A combination of regular virtual closed-door summits and a once- or twice-a-year on-site meeting where presidents could lump together several of their annual summits would be great.
At the very least, it would change the nature of these summits from pure show business to serious work meetings.
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