How the US-Hosted Summit of the Americas May Deal a Humiliating Blow to Biden
© AP Photo / Susan WalshPresident Joe Biden walks away after talking about the May jobs report from the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center in Rehoboth Beach, Del., Friday, June 4, 2021
© AP Photo / Susan Walsh
Less than three weeks before the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, it is unclear whether some major Latin American heads, including the presidents of Mexico and Brazil, will show up, creating yet another PR debacle for President Joe Biden.
The ninth Summit of the Americas (SOA) is due to take place on 6-10 June 2022 in Los Angeles, California. The City of Angels is home to the largest Hispanic/Latino community in the US. The event is held every three or four years. It will be convened in the US for the first time since its 1994 inaugural session in Miami.
According to the US State Department, a wide range of issues is expected to be discussed at the gathering, including the COVID-19 pandemic, "the cracks in health, economic, educational, and social systems"; threats to democracy; the climate crisis; and "a lack of equitable access to economic, social, and political opportunities" for "most vulnerable and underrepresented".
As White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told journalists on 10 May, no formal invitations have been sent so far. Nevertheless, the upcoming event's exclusiveness has already raised questions.
In March, it was revealed that Cuban officials and the presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua would not be included, according to the New York Times. Cuba has long been subjected to Washington's embargo, while the US has not formally recognised Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro or his Nicaraguan counterpart Daniel Ortega.
© AP Photo / Jacquelyn MartinUS Vice President Kamala Harris and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gesture as they arrive for a bilateral meeting Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at the National Palace in Mexico City.
US Vice President Kamala Harris and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gesture as they arrive for a bilateral meeting Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at the National Palace in Mexico City.
© AP Photo / Jacquelyn Martin
In response, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador signalled that he would skip the summit if the heads of those countries were not invited.
“If there are exclusions, if not everyone is invited, then a delegation from the Mexican government will go, but I will not go,” López Obrador told a news conference on 10 May.
The same day, Reuters broke that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is not planning to attend the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, citing two people familiar with the matter. Brazil's Foreign Ministry was less categorical telling the media outlet that "the president's attendance is being studied and is not confirmed."
Brazil is the largest country in South America and the fifth largest nation in the world, which will obviously make its absence notable.
At the same time, the absence of the Mexican president from the summit could axe the Biden administration's opportunity to achieve any viable migration deal amid the US border crisis. Mexico remains one of the largest sources of migrants to the US, according to the NYT.
"[T]he boycott threats underscore the challenges facing the Biden administration in advancing its interests in the Americas, where the United States has long played an outsized role," the newspaper notes.
What's more, the unfolding situation is "threatening to deliver a humiliating blow to the White House," acknowledges the NYT.