Just two days before the president of the United States, Joe Biden, arrives in Los Angeles to formally open the IX Summit of the Americas, the White House has not yet made the list of guests public and only a small group of leaders has confirmed Your presence. Faced with a boycott instigated by the dictatorships of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and other divisions in the American continent, the US government is trying these days to secure more guests, including Mexico and some Central American country with which to agree on some migratory measure.
At the moment, the only ones that have openly confirmed their presence are Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Panama, Chile, Ecuador, Canada and Argentina, although this list will surely grow in the coming hours.
The plenary will take place on Thursday and Friday. Spain has been invited as an observer, and Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares will attend Los Angeles. According to several US media published last week, the US is negotiating, like the government of Pedro Sánchez, to accept a quota for Central American refugees.
The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has managed to break the White House, promoting the boycott by excluding the dictatorships, whose interests he has decided to defend. Biden even agreed to invite a senior Cuban official and delay a decision on whether the opponent of Chavismo Juan Guaidó will attend, all in order to appease a López Obrador who to this day has not yet revealed whether he will go to Los Angeles or not, and who has offered to be replaced by his chancellor, Marcelo Ebrard.
The US hosts the summit again after doing it in 1994, in Miami, the first time that the leaders of the American continent and the Caribbean met to discuss matters of common interest. The idea then was to achieve a free trade agreement for the guests, the 35 that have a presence in the Organization of American States (OAS), which was later joined by communist Cuba, which did attend the last summits held in Peru. and Panama.
The Biden Administration has been changing its mind as the date of the summit has gotten closer and the boycott has become more and more possible. On May 2, the head of Latin America at the State Department, Ambassador Brian Nichols, announced in an interview on the NTN24 network that Joe Biden would not invite the dictatorships of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to the summit. After López Obrador called for a boycott, the White House rectified the diplomacy, causing great internal tensions in the government.
In reality, US diplomacy simply adhered to what the Summit of the Americas itself decided in 2001 at a meeting in Quebec. The governments of the area declared that any breakdown in the democratic order is an "insurmountable obstacle" to future participation in the summit process. The three dictatorships in Havana, Caracas and Managua do not even have representation in the OAS.
According to sources in the White House, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have spoken directly with the leaders of Argentina and Honduras, respectively, so that they do not join the boycott promoted by Mexico. Former Democratic senator Christopher Dodd, appointed coordinator of the summit, has also visited several countries on the continent and according to those same sources he has been the one who has convinced the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro to attend. This did not join a boycott of those leftist dictatorships, his reasons for resisting are his bad harmony with Biden, with whom he has not yet spoken since he entered the White House. Now the Argentine Alberto Fernández and Bolsonaro will have bilateral talks with Biden, in addition to his presence at the summit.
On the eve of the summit, the Biden government partially lifted sanctions on the Cuban dictatorship and again makes it easier for its citizens to travel to the island, lifting several flight restrictions that were established during the Trump Administration after the thaw of the Obama era. It also lifted several oil and other sanctions against the Chavista regime in Venezuela.
Since a visit to Caracas by White House envoys in March, the Biden Administration has remained silent on a possible policy change toward Venezuela. Internally, as this newspaper has learned from diplomatic sources, there has been tension between the Presidency and diplomacy over the visit to Maduro and the resumption of contact with the dictatorship without prior consultation with Guaidó and other opponents of the regime to whom the US recognizes as legitimate representatives of the Venezuelan people. US diplomacy did not look favorably on the visit to Caracas, led by President Biden's top adviser for Latin America, Juan González. On that visit, the US obtained the release of two prisoners.
To another summit of heads of state and government, held virtually in December, and in which threats to democracy were discussed, Biden did not invite the Salvadoran Nayib Bukele or the Guatemalan Alejandro Giammatei. The Mexican López Obrador was invited, but he was absent and did not even send his foreign minister, but rather his ambassador in Washington, Esteban Moctezuma.
At the previous Summit of the Americas, in 2018, Trump did not even attend. Consequently, 18 of the 35 heads of state in the area were absent. It is possible that this time Biden will be absent many more, despite the fact that he will be the host.