A boycott of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and some other leaders could diminish the relevance of the Los Angeles summit, where the United States intends to address issues of migration and the regional economy. US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, hopes to repair relations with Latin America damaged under his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, reassert US influence and counter China.
The decision to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua followed weeks of intense deliberations and was driven by concerns about human rights and the lack of democracy in those three nations, a senior government official said Monday. Biden administration.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price told a press briefing that the United States understands Mexico’s position, but “one of the key elements of this summit is democratic governance. , and these countries are not examples, to put it mildly, of democratic governance”.
Mr. Biden’s aides have been alert to pressure from Republicans and some of the president’s Democratic colleagues not to appear soft on Latin America’s three main leftist antagonists. Miami’s large Cuban-American community, which has favored Trump’s tough policies on Cuba and Venezuela, is seen as an important voting bloc in Florida in the November election that will decide control of the US Congress.
Lopez Obrador told reporters at a regular press conference on Monday that Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard would attend the summit in his place. The Mexican president has said he will meet Mr. Biden Washington next month, which the White House has confirmed.
“There cannot be a Summit of the Americas if all the countries of the American continent do not take part in it”, declared Lopez Obrador.
Lopez Obrador’s absence raises questions about the importance of summit discussions focused on limiting migration to the US southern border, a priority for Biden, and could be a diplomatic embarrassment for the US. A caravan of several thousand migrants, many from Venezuela, left southern Mexico early Monday with the aim of reaching the United States.
US Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat and chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized the Mexican president in a statement, saying his “decision to side with dictators and despots” would hurt US-Mexican relations.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist and Trump admirer who leads Latin America’s most populous country, will attend after initially flirting with the idea of staying on the sidelines.
The exclusion of Venezuela and Nicaragua, led by the left, had already been reported in recent weeks. President Miguel Diaz-Canel of communist Cuba said last month he would not go even if invited, accusing the United States of “brutal pressure” to make the summit non-inclusive.
In a critical statement on Monday, Cuba called the decision “discriminatory and unacceptable” and said the United States underestimated the region’s support for the island nation.
The United States invited some Cuban civil society activists to attend the summit, but several said on social media that Cuban state security had prevented them from traveling to Los Angeles to attend.
Having dismissed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the Biden administration expects representatives of opposition leader Juan Guaido to attend, the State Department’s Price said Monday. Mr Price declined to say who could attend and whether it would be in person or virtually.
Washington recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, having condemned Maduro’s 2018 re-election as a sham.
Also excluded from the summit is Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla who won a fourth consecutive term in November after jailing rivals.
Most leaders have made it known they will attend, but the retrenchment of left-leaned governments suggests that many Latin American countries are no longer willing to follow Washington’s example as in the past.