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Biden's Democracy Summit: The Sad Truth About The Invitation List

Can the countries the United States have invited to an exclusive summit on democracy safeguard and spread a system that is inherently flawed and fragile?

Biden's Democracy Summit: The Sad Truth About The Invitation List

The U.S. invited Taiwan to take part to the Summit for Democracy

Marcos Peckel

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — Don't expect much from the Summit for Democracy, summoned by the U.S. President Joe Biden.

Slated later this week, it follows other initiatives to defend and promote democracy worldwide, and will convene by video remote the representatives of 110 invited countries, which the U.S. State Department considers democracies.

Its three stated objectives are: defense against authoritarianism, fighting corruption and promoting respect for human rights.

The first controversy around the gathering emerged from the guest list, which includes some of the United States' chief regional allies.


Whatever the concerns, they are of particular importance amid an incipient, reemerging cold war with China.

Who's in and who's out

The least represented regions will include Central America, the Gulf, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and North Africa. From the Middle East, only Israel and Iraq were invited, with the latter included to show that the 2003 invasion achieved something. Tunisia, an erstwhile example to hold up from the Arab Spring, was not invited. It is slowly, though not inevitably, sliding toward authoritarian rule.

Was there an inherent, democratic flaw that has brought this regression?

The invitation to Taiwan was clearly a slap at China, which has, alongside Russia, derided the summit as a bid to divide the world and foment a "cold war mentality." The summit excluded the usual suspects from Latin America — Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela — but also Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Bolivia. For better or worse these last four have democratically elected governments.

Joe Biden at the 2021 NATO Summit in Brussels

Nicolas Landemard/Le Pictorium Agency/ZUMA

How much do we value democracy?

At a time of grave deterioration in liberal democracies, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, and when a creature we thought extinct, the putsch, has reemerged with dismal vigor, one wonders, was there an inherent, democratic flaw that has brought this regression? How far does the balance between liberty and prosperity lean toward the former? How much do societies value the separation of powers and freedom of expression?

Rocky terrain, with uncertain objectives.

One would have to somehow confirm Winston Churchill's familiar opinion that democracy was the worst system, bar all others. Because while improvements in material prosperity are palpable in places like China and Vietnam, which are under one-party rule, in some democracies, inequality and vulnerability have increased.

Perhaps in addition, we should not underestimate the "DNA" of some societies that seemingly, would rather live under big leaders and tyrants, to avoid democracy's ups and downs.

Biden's summit and other moves to spread democracy have entered rocky terrain, with uncertain objectives. At the end of the day, it is for nations themselves to defend their democracies.

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Society

Facing Down The "Violence Stigma" Of Mental Health Illness

Sensationalist TV coverage and even experts still often link mental health struggles and violent crimes, even though people with mental health difficulties commit fewer crimes comparatively. It's time to end the stigma.

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Wooden figurines

Sara R. Gallardo

People like me who have mental health disorders suffer more violence than we inflict on others, yet we continue to carry the stigma of being unpredictable and aggressive individuals.

In the "events" section of a morning TV program I saw, for example, there was some news with sensationalist overtones. The first was about a son who had killed his father and the second was about an individual who had beaten another and left him in a coma.

The journalistic decisions in the presentation and commentary of both events were as follows: in the first case, the alleged perpetrator must necessarily have "mental disorders" to justify his conduct. But in the second case, it was not "necessary" to jump to that conclusion because the information focused on the bad reputation of the alleged aggressor, nicknamed "The Nazi".

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