As President Joe Biden prepares to host Latin American leaders in Los Angeles, the White House is downplaying Mexico’s boycott and pointing to the president’s track record of diplomacy in the region as the bedrock for cooperation on pressing economic, migration, and climate issues.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s choice to forgo the Summit of the Americas is “a sovereign decision” that “we just disagree with,” a senior administration official told reporters on a call Monday. Lopez Obrador made the decision after Biden decided not to invite Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, countries whose leaders the White House slammed as “dictators.”
“We believe the best use of this summit is to bring together countries that share a set of democratic principles,” the official argued.
The move by one of America’s closest regional allies is a blow to the Biden administration as it prepares to host the weeklong event for the first time since 1994. Twenty-three heads of government are set to attend, but key regional partners are abstaining, including those from Honduras and El Salvador, both countries from where the United States has sought to stem the flow of migration.
Biden is expected to make several announcements, beginning with a policy speech Wednesday to introduce the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, a plan to boost regional investment and trade, strengthen governments, and combat climate change. He will also commit more than $300 million in food aid. The president will additionally preview a meeting with other leaders later in the week to introduce a migration plan. Called the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration, the initiative is closely tied to other economic initiatives presented during the week.
“This summit is about building and strengthening our foundation with our key partners on these issues that are most consequential for the countries and people of the region,” the official said.
Biden has for decades “worked to realize his vision of the [Western] hemisphere that is middle class, secure, democratic,” the official said. As vice president under Barack Obama, Biden was the administration’s point person for diplomacy in the region, where he visited more than 16 times.
While Biden will not be meeting with key regional partners such as Lopez Obrador, he is expected to sit down with others, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Venezuelan politician Juan Guaido. There’s “a good chance” the president may meet with Guaido, whom the U.S. recognizes as the country’s interim president, the White House said.
Biden’s closest advisers will host events throughout the week, including his secretary of state, vice president, secretary of commerce, trade ambassador, and more, aiming to reinforce America’s commitment to a region closely tied to the U.S. through trade, migration, and other matters.
“There’s no other part of the world that impacts the security and prosperity of the United States more directly than the Western Hemisphere,” the official said.
The U.S. continues to face supply chain shortages as well as a surge in the number of migrants arriving at the southern border, both political concerns for Biden heading into the midterm elections.