LOS ANGELES (Dispatches) – President Joe Biden’s bid to reassert leadership in Americas where mistrust of the U.S. runs deep is dealt a blow as several south and central American countries opt to stay away from a summit in Los Angeles.
Leaders from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have rejected to participate in the Americas Summit due to Washington’s policy of exclusion after it refused to invite Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba to the gathering.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador slammed Washington policy of exclusion and said it needs to change its desire to dominate the world without any reason.
“There cannot be an Americas Summit if not all of the continent’s countries participate,” López Obrador said Monday, confirming that he will not attend the summit.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro praised the Mexican president’s “courage and clarity” for choosing not to attend the summit, saying the U.S. government’s decision to exclude three countries is an “act of discrimination”, which ensures that “the summit will fail”.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric also criticized the U.S. exclusion of South American countries and said that it was “not the right path”.
“We think it’s an error, a mistake,” he told reporters in Ottawa at a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“When the United States claims to exclude certain countries from the summit, they’re actually then reinforcing the position that these other countries take in their own countries,” he added.
Trudeau separated his government’s approach from the U.S. policy, saying that “Canada has always had a different position on Cuba than the United States.”
Lopez Obrador’s absence will diminish the impact of a summit where U.S.-Mexico relations are at the heart of major immigration and trade issues.
In Havana, the Cuban government issued a statement calling its exclusion “anti-democratic and arbitrary.”
Biden, who flies to Los Angeles on Wednesday, will be announcing numerous “deliverables” at the summit.
Friday will be devoted to the surge of migration to the United States -- a major concern for U.S. voters and an area where Republican opponents see Biden as vulnerable in upcoming midterm elections.
Benjamin Gedan, who heads the Latin America program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said Lopez Obrador’s absence would mark a “significant void.”
The snub has been “a really unfortunate subplot in the run-up to the summit because it has drained an enormous amount of U.S. diplomatic energy for a bizarre cause celebre,” Gedan said.