López Obrador had been the leader of mostly left-leaning leaders pushing the United States to invite the autocratic nations of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela to the rally, which the Biden administration resisted because of its optics policy and its human rights record. And other leaders, including from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — the three main drivers of migration to the United States — have previously indicated they would also refrain from attending if those countries were not not invited.
“The region is in serious economic distress, and its economic struggles are eroding support for democracy,” said Benjamin Gedan, acting director of the Wilson Center’s Latin America program. “Biden’s election has generated high expectations for U.S. re-engagement in the region, and so far nearly everyone has been disappointed.”
The summit, which begins today, is the ninth such gathering since the 1994 summit held in Miami, the last time the United States hosted the event. But the backdrop to this gathering is likely to prove more chaotic than those of the past.
López Obrador had hinted at a boycott for weeks, even though many in the Biden administration did not expect him to follow through. Publicly, White House aides are downplaying possible absences from Mexico and other nations following suit. But privately, there has been growing frustration within the West Wing that the back-and-forth soap opera on the guest list has been the defining — and only — conversation on a summit overshadowed by recent headlines, including including a series of mass shootings, inflation and war in Ukraine.
“There are always questions about invitations, there are always questions about who is coming and who is not coming, but we should also talk and focus on the purpose of this meeting,” the secretary said this week. White House press, Karine Jean-Pierre. “I think if you’ve been following this administration for a year and a half, a week is not the eleventh hour when it comes to the way things are moving. And so it’s a lifetime away for us as the White House.
Mexico’s foreign minister will attend the summit instead, and López Obrador said on Monday he intended to visit the White House next month.
In the meantime, the White House has moved forward with its plans for the rally. A total of 23 countries will be represented at the summit.
Biden will outline a cooperative economic vision for the region and offer plans to tighten supply chains, especially for medical supplies to prepare for future pandemics. He is expected to announce a food security plan and task Vice President Kamala Harris to lead a climate change partnership with Caribbean countries.
The main event will probably be the migration talks. Biden will highlight that every nation — not just the United States and Mexico — has experienced irregular migration during the pandemic and unveil a new plan emphasizing shared responsibility and economic support across the Western Hemisphere.
Migration to the southern border has reached its highest level in decades over the past year, and officials warn these trends are likely to continue even as pandemic-era restrictions have curtailed access to asylum.
Other priorities, officials said, will be to create a path for the region to transition to clean energy and move towards a more digital future. And, underscoring a Biden campaign theme, the White House will use the moment to make the case for the vitality of democracies in an effort to mitigate the rise of autocratic governments.
But the push comes up against some political realities, as Biden plans a meeting in Los Angeles with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a nationalist who has not pledged to honor his country’s election results later this year. he had to lose. And despite the canceled presence of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the White House is also planning a possible meeting with the autocratic Saudi leader later this summer.
Domestic factors will, of course, impact any foreign policies Biden tries to implement in California. Beyond the migration fervor, economic headwinds may make it difficult for the president to unveil important trade deals, while Florida’s inherently complicated politics make it difficult for Biden to adjust U.S. diplomacy toward a country like Cuba.
“Historically, the United States gets into trouble in Latin America when it’s absent, neglectful, uncommitted. Problems are escalating and turning into crises,” said Bernard Aronson, former Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs and former US Special Envoy for the Colombian Peace Process.
“It’s by no means too late,” Aronson continued, “but if you look at what Biden has on his plate elsewhere — an administration can only do two or three big things at a time. He has the Ukraine, Iran, China, inflation I don’t think he has a lot of available bandwidth considering what he has on his plate.
Electoral politics may also come into play. Once the summit kicks off, some of Biden’s fellow Democrats could turn on him – they’ve already figured out his recent limited easing of Cuba and Venezuela policies – in an effort to prop up their supporters. moderate.
And Biden administration officials are preparing for leaders to use the platform to speak out against US regional policies, perhaps even in the face of the president — while other leaders, of course, will raise awareness. their protests in their absence.
Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.