The occasional benefits of live summitry

The New York Times’ Alexei Barrionuevo and Simon Romero report on an entertaining leader summit for the Union of South American Nations.  One bone of contention at the summit was a recent military accord between the United States and Colombia.  The proceedings were apparently broadcast live.  This part stood out:  Mr. Chávez had previously described ...

By , a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast.

The New York Times' Alexei Barrionuevo and Simon Romero report on an entertaining leader summit for the Union of South American Nations.  One bone of contention at the summit was a recent military accord between the United States and Colombia. 

The New York Times’ Alexei Barrionuevo and Simon Romero report on an entertaining leader summit for the Union of South American Nations.  One bone of contention at the summit was a recent military accord between the United States and Colombia. 

The proceedings were apparently broadcast live.  This part stood out: 

Mr. Chávez had previously described the [U.S.-Colombia] accord as a step toward war and had said it involved American designs on Venezuelan oil. He has been threatening to break off diplomatic relations with Colombia.   

President Alan García of Peru, who has warm relations with the United States, took a shot at Mr. Chávez, noting Venezuela’s continued willingness to export oil to the United States.

“Man, why are they going to dominate the petroleum if you already sell it all to the United States?” Mr. García said. The remark drew laughter, though not from Mr. Chávez.

With the caveat that this as a speculative, half-assed generalization, it does seem that certain regions produce vastly more entertaining summits than other regions.  Latin America and the Middle East produce summit meetings with open and entertaining feuding.  Europe and the Pacific Rim, not so much. 

Why is this?  I don’t think it’s the number of "colorful leaders" — if that was true, then Silvio Berlusconi would have made the EU summits rip-roaring affairs years ago.  I don’t think it’s the degree of security tensions — East Asia has more enduring rivalries than Latin America. 

Seriously, why? 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner

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