Biden's Americas summit threatened with boycott

MEXICO CITY — Confusion over invitations, an unclear agenda and mounting boycott threats. A gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders nex...


MEXICO CITY — Confusion over invitations, an unclear agenda and mounting boycott threats.

A gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders next month hosted by the United States and intended to showcase America’s resurgent leadership in the region risks becoming a public relations debacle.

Less than three weeks before Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, it is feared that rather than highlighting the Biden The administration’s vision for a part of the world that former President Donald J. Trump largely ignored, the event could expose America’s weakening ability to advance its agenda in the region.

A growing number of Latin American and Caribbean heads of state, including the presidents of Mexico and Brazil – the region’s two largest nations – are even considering not running, threatening to deliver a humiliating blow to the White House.

No official invitation was sent and the White House said no the final decision has been made on who would be invited. But some countries are already uncertain about how the summit will address pressing challenges at a time when the region is struggling to recover from a brutal economic downturn caused by the pandemic, runaway inflation, environmental degradation and the dismantling of democratic institutions.

A 900-word memo on the summit sent to members of Congress by the State Department last month contained no specific objectives, and preliminary meetings held by regional representatives were characterized by confusion and a noticeable absence of migration. off the agenda, according to a congressional staffer. member and a participant.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council, which is helping organize the event, said the summit was “the Biden administration’s highest priority event for our hemisphere,” adding that formal invitations would be sent out soon. The NSC and the State Department declined to comment on the boycott threats.

Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council, Juan Gonzalez, said Americas Quarterly Magazine in March that Cuban officials and the presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua would not be included.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico said he would skip the meeting if the governments of those countries were not invited.

Mr. López Obrador’s threat was echoed by leftist presidents from Bolivia and Honduras. A group of Caribbean States has also threatened to boycott the meeting if Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó is invited to represent his nation in place of President Nicolás Maduro.

The United States recognizes Mr. Guaidó as Venezuela’s head of state, despite Mr. Maduro’s effective control of the country.

“If there are exclusions, if not everyone is invited, then a delegation from the Mexican government will go, but I won’t go,” López Obrador said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro may also not attend the summit, according to several Brazilian government officials. The Brazilian president has had a frosty relationship with Washington, and the summit promised to be the first time Mr Bolsonaro and President Biden would speak as presidents.

Still, US diplomats have said the hesitation of some presidents was likely aimed at appealing to nationalist or left-leaning voters and may not reflect their final decisions.

Some foreign policy observers also said planning uncertainty was typical of these regional events, which tend to focus on symbolic appearances rather than concrete solutions.

“Three weeks is an eternity when the US government gets around to executing something like this summit,” said Dan Restrepo, a fellow at the Center for American Progress, a research institute and former Western Hemisphere Affairs official. at the National Security. Advice.

But the boycott threats underscore the challenges the Biden administration faces in advancing its interests in the Americas, where the United States has long played an outsized role. The administration is seeking a meaningful regional agreement on undocumented migration before the midterm elections, among other issues, according to a person familiar with the planning.

“Latin American governments want to show Washington that it is no longer sitting at the head of the table and that it is a summit of equals, instead of Uncle Sam unilaterally deciding who is on the guest list,” said Brian Winter, editor of Americas Quarterly, which focuses on American politics in the hemisphere.

After being banned from the first six summits in the Americas, Cuba was invited to the last two in Panama and Peru.

The Biden administration’s initial plan to exclude Cuba partly reflects domestic political pressures, including trying to avoid provoking Robert Menendez, a Cuban-American Democratic senator from New Jersey who serves as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. and ardent critic of the Cuban government.

“President Biden has made it clear that he is focused on restoring United States credibility and leadership in the global campaign to counter authoritarian forces,” Menendez said in an email. “The president is keeping that promise.”

The absence of Mr. López Obrador from the summit would make it more difficult to reach a viable agreement on migration.

Mexico is the largest source of migrants heading to the United States, and the country’s government has worked with Washington to stem the flow of other nationals traveling to the US border via Central America.

“If you have a Summit of the Americas without the presidents of Mexico and Brazil, it makes almost no sense,” said Jorge Castañeda, a former Mexican foreign minister who now teaches international relations at the University of New York. “You have a failed summit.”

Bolsonaro’s lack of participation could derail any meaningful progress on two other major foreign policy goals of the Biden administration, climate change and the defense of democracy.

And the prolonged silence between Mr. Biden and Mr. Bolsonaro has led to strained diplomatic relations.

During Mr. Biden’s presidency, Mr. Bolsonaro has moved Brazil closer to russia, extended policies that have led to deforestation in the Amazon and questioned the integrity of his own country’s elections. US officials have privately lobbied for different policies and have sometimes publicly criticized Mr. Bolsonaro.

The most pressing issue is the Brazilian presidential election in October. The Biden administration fears that after months of questioning Brazil’s voting systems, Mr. Bolsonaro could challenge the results if he loses.

At the summit, officials from the United States and other countries could try to pressure Mr. Bolsonaro to respect the democratic process and publicly express his own support for Brazil’s electoral system.

But now it appears Mr Bolsonaro cannot travel to Los Angeles and the summit has been dropped from his agenda, according to a person familiar with his schedule, who spoke on condition of anonymity. as the plans had not been announced.

Reuters reported this week that he had no intention of attending.

Bolsonaro’s office, in an email, said it had not received information on the timing of the summit. Brazil’s vice president, Hamilton Mourão, said in a text message that the president still hasn’t decided whether to attend.

“If this is an empty summit, it is a message to the rest of the world that there is no coordination or common ground between the countries of the Americas,” said Ernesto Araújo, who served as minister of Mr. Bolsonaro’s Foreign Affairs until last year.

Mr. Bolsonaro could also be wary of any delicate political situation if he goes to the top and Mr. Biden makes public statements about election security in Brazil.

“The risk of having a bad title is too great,” said Thomas Traumann, a former spokesperson for Dilma Rousseff, former president of Brazil. “And is Biden going to offer billions of dollars in US investments? No. So what’s in it for him?

Natalie Kitroeff and Oscar López contributed reporting from Mexico City, Michael Shear from Washington and André Spigariol from Brasilia, Brazil.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden's Americas summit threatened with boycott
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