Wednesday. 1/6/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Lucinda Elliott

Broken bash

Not being invited to a party is never a nice feeling. And when no one turns up to yours, it’s downright embarrassing. Every three years or so, leaders from the Americas take turns to host their neighbours for a blow-out diplomatic fiesta. But the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, which begins on 6 June, looks like it might be less of a knees-up, given that most of those invited don’t plan to attend.

As host, the US is in charge of invitations and it has excluded Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela on the grounds that their governments were undemocratic. The move has backfired. Mexico has launched a boycott, arguing that the event in Los Angeles should not “be reduced to a ‘Summit of the United States of America’”. The snub from Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has prompted others to follow suit. Potential no-shows include Bolivia, Guatemala and Honduras. Argentina and Brazil are still on the fence, leaving Colombia, Latin America’s fourth-largest economy whose president is weeks from stepping down, as the most significant confirmed attendee.

Threats of an empty cocktail reception have caused Washington to reconsider its position as it races to salvage the event. The summit comes at a delicate time for the Biden administration, which is seeking to counter China’s inexorable advance in the region and stem record-high migration at the southern US border.

This latest spat hints at far bigger problems facing the host: its lack of an ambitious agenda and waning US influence. Latin American officials consistently say that there has been nothing comparable to the bold 1994 proposal from Bill Clinton (pictured) for a Free Trade Area of the Americas when the US last played host to the summit. Since then, the US has either ignored or lashed out at countries further south and Joe Biden’s administration has promised little in the way of change. It’s no wonder nobody feels like celebrating with a party.

Lucinda Elliott is Monocle’s Latin America affairs correspondent.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Thailand

Long goodbye

It looks as though Thailand’s prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha (pictured), is on his way out – but the big question in Bangkok is just how soon the former general, who took power in a 2014 coup d’état, will leave office. While the next general election must be called by March next year, Prayut’s creaking coalition could fracture as early as this week. The country’s politicians are in the middle of a debate about the government’s proposed budget. Some junior members of the ruling coalition could join the opposition in voting down the bill. That could force the prime minister to dissolve parliament and call early elections. Even if the budget passes, the opposition is planning a long, hot summer of no-confidence votes and constitutional court appeals. Prayut wants the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, which Thailand will host in November, to be his swan song. Staying on until then would be considered a major coup, albeit not his first.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Denmark

Shift in the tide

For decades, Denmark has opted out of the EU’s common defence policy – but it is expected to change course when it votes on the matter in today’s referendum. Joint operations have allowed the EU to co-ordinate foreign policy and contribute troops to military missions for decades; however, Copenhagen has repeatedly exercised its right not to take part. It is one of several EU initiatives, such as adopting the euro, that Danish voters have rejected.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced a rethink and polls suggest that voters are likely to overturn the defence-policy exemption. That would make Mette Frederiksen (pictured) the latest Nordic leader to reverse longstanding foreign policy. Last month, both Finland and Sweden applied for Nato membership after long maintaining neutrality. If Danes decide to start contributing to EU forces, that would be another slap in the face for Russia, which invaded Ukraine to prevent further European defence co-operation.

For more on Denmark’s EU defence policy referendum, tune in to today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: National Gallery of Canada

Art / Canada

Breaking taboos

A retrospective by art trio General Idea opens this Friday at Ottawa’s National Gallery of Canada. The exhibition spans the group’s 25 years of work that ended in 1994, following the deaths of two members from Aids-related illnesses. The trio often addressed themes such as queer identity and social inequalities but are perhaps best known for their subversive take on pop artist Robert Indiana’s “Love” pieces, replacing the word with “Aids”. The show is one of many exhibitions getting under way around the world as galleries in cities from Chicago to Brisbane dust themselves off after two years of intermittent restrictions. The General Idea show in Ottawa reminds us of how things have changed in the art world by harking back to a time when, as surviving member AA Bronson puts it in a book that accompanies the exhibition, “if you defined yourself as a gay artist or a queer artist that would be the end of your career”.

For our guide to exhibitions opening this summer, read the art special in Monocle’s June issue, which is out now.

Fashion / Europe

Perfect match

Barcelona-based luxury group Puig bought a majority stake in Swedish brand Byredo yesterday. For Puig (whose fashion-and-beauty portfolio includes Antwerp-based Dries Van Noten, Christian Louboutin Beauty and Comme des Garçons Parfums), the appeal lay in Byredo’s loyal client base and commitment to responsible manufacturing. “Byredo has built a culture and a tribe that people want to belong to,” says Puig’s vice-chairman and chief sustainability officer, Manuel Puig Rocha.

Byredo founder Ben Gorham, who will stay on board, has in the past few years expanded the company beyond fragrances into a fully fledged luxury house. More recently he introduced a series of limited-edition items from soft furnishings to eyewear. “Puig’s experience with founder-led brands will help us realise our full potential in multiple categories,” says Gorham. It might not be universal but more fashion houses are sourcing and crafting their products with an eye on sustainability, in both materials and working conditions – something that should be applauded.

Image: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Culture

The films of Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola has been applauded as a film-maker ever since she directed The Virgin Suicides in 1999. In the more than two decades since, her films have touched on everything from an 18th-century queen on the eve of the French revolution to a group of thieves notorious for stealing the property of Paris Hilton. We take a deep dive into her work with critic Hannah Strong, author of the new book Sofia Coppola: Forever Young.

Global / Monocle Films

Monocle preview: June issue, 2022

Monocle’s June issue will get you where you need to go. Our mobility special delivers reports on electric planes, dinky buses and the new Motor City. And once you’ve arrived at your destination, our art survey shows you the top talents to seek out around the world. Plus: how will Ukraine be rebuilt? Order your copy today from The Monocle Shop.

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