President of Mexico will not attend Biden’s Summit of the Americas: NPR

President Biden had hoped Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador would join him at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, but Lopez Obrador declined the invitation

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President of Mexico will not attend Biden's Summit of the Americas: NPR

President Biden had hoped Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador would join him at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, but Lopez Obrador declined the invitation

Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

The Summit of the Americas — an event this week brings together leaders from countries from Chile to Canada — was supposed to be an opportunity for the White House to demonstrate its leadership on major issues such as migration, climate change and recovery from the pandemic.

But the agenda is overshadowed by who won’t be at the table. Several leaders, including Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have turned down the chance to meet President Biden in Los Angeles.

The absences draw attention to the United States’ waning influence in the region and raise questions about US involvement in Latin America.

As vice president, Biden visited the region more than 16 times, so there was a lot of optimism when he took office about a more collaborative relationship with the region. But after more than a year in office as president, Biden has devoted more time to pressing issues in Russia and China.

The summit comes as China has made a major breakthrough in the region’s economy, said Eric Farnsworth, a former State Department official now at the Council of the Americas.

Latin America cries out for economic relief after the pandemic and gets little help from the United States, while China lurks — with an open checkbook.

“I’ve been saying this since last summer,” Farnsworth said. “You’re headed for a train wreck unless you somehow change course and acknowledge that the hemisphere has shifted. But our policy in the region is just status quo.”

Mexico wanted all countries to be invited, but Biden left a few out

López Obrador had threatened to skip the summit if the United States did not invite the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. When the guest list was finally released this week — and the authoritarian leaders were left out — López Obrador lived up to that threat.

“There can be no Summit of the Americas if not all countries of the American continent participate,” López Obrador said Monday. “Or there may be, but we believe that means we’re continuing the old politics of interventionism, with a lack of respect for their communities.”

Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said the government considered inviting the leaders but ultimately ruled it out.

“Looking at the current situation in Cuba, in particular with lawsuits against civil society leaders and similar situations in Nicaragua and Venezuela, we felt that the most appropriate decision was to express our own commitment to democracy and human rights in our hemisphere. maintain,” Nichols said. †

President of Mexico will not attend Biden's Summit of the Americas: NPR

Assistant Secretary of State for Affairs in the Western Hemisphere Brian Nichols says leaders attending the summit will get work for their citizens.

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President of Mexico will not attend Biden's Summit of the Americas: NPR

Assistant Secretary of State for Affairs in the Western Hemisphere Brian Nichols says leaders attending the summit will get work for their citizens.

Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP

Migration is a big issue, but key leaders won’t be on top

On Friday, Biden and the leaders attending the meeting are expected to sign a statement on migration. The Biden administration plans to announce new private sector investment for Central America aimed at improving the economy and curbing migration. But the leaders of the three countries responsible for much of the migration — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — are skipping the summit.

However, the countries are sending delegations of officials and the Biden administration says it is working with them to get things done.

Also on the agenda: improving medical supply chains, tackling hunger and food shortages, and a climate and energy partnership with the Caribbean.

“Ultimately, people will see that we’ve taken a lot of concrete measures that will improve people’s lives,” said Nichols, who oversees Western Hemisphere policy at the US State Department.

Biden also wants to talk about pandemic recovery

On Wednesday, the White House said Biden will announce a new plan with partners in the region to recover from COVID-19 — and prepare for future pandemics. In partnership with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the plan includes training for 500,000 public health and medical responders in the region over the next five years, a program they call the Americas Health Corps.

President of Mexico will not attend Biden's Summit of the Americas: NPR

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, seen here in an April file photo, will have his first meeting with President Biden.

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President of Mexico will not attend Biden's Summit of the Americas: NPR

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, seen here in an April file photo, will have his first meeting with President Biden.

Eraldo Peres/AP

Biden will have his first conversation with Brazil’s Bolsonaro

Biden will also meet with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. It will be the first time he speaks with the controversial leader, who was a close ally of former President Donald Trump.

Of late, Bolsonaro has made false claims about Brazil’s electoral system, similar to Trump’s false claims about Biden’s election.

Jorge Guajardo, a former Mexican ambassador to China, says the U.S. Capitol uprising on Jan. 6, 2021, exposed the United States’ own problems with maintaining democracy. These problems have not gone unnoticed in the hemisphere.

Guajardo said Latin American leaders, like others around the world, simply don’t know if — and for how long — the United States will be able to uphold its past democratic principles.

“It gives countries time to say, ‘Why should we follow your lead?’ if we don’t know if your successor will leave us hanging in the future,” Guajardo said.

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