Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed Monday that he won't attend the Summit of the Americas hosted by President Biden in Los Angeles this week because not all countries in the Americas are invited.
López Obrador had previously threatened to skip the summit if the Biden administration didn't invite countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Those countries did not receive invitations over human rights concerns and their "lack of democratic space," a senior U.S. official said Monday.
The official said the U.S., as the host of this year's summit, has "wide discretion on invitations, but deeply values and respects the diversity of views of our regional neighbors." Non-governmental representatives from Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua are still registered to participate in stakeholder forums, according to the official.
"There cannot be a summit if all countries are not invited," López Obrador said. "Or there can be one but that is to continue with all politics of interventionism."
López Obrador said his foreign affairs secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, will lead the Mexican delegation in his absence. Instead of going to Los Angeles, López Obrador said he would visit communities that were damaged by a recent hurricane later this week.
The, which brings together countries from across the hemisphere, is held every few years. According to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, there will be 68 delegations from the Americas, at least 23 heads of government, and more than 10 U.S. Cabinet members.
The U.S. is hosting the summit for the first time since its launch in 1994 in Miami, as part of an effort to galvanize support for a free trade agreement stretching from Alaska to Patagonia.
But that goal was abandoned more than 15 years ago amid a rise in leftist politics in the region. With China's influence expanding, most nations have come to expect — and need — less from Washington.
As a result, the premier forum for regional cooperation has languished, at times turning into a stage for airing historical grievances, like when the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez at the 2009 summit in Trinidad & Tobago gave President Barack Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano's classic tract, "The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent."
While in Los Angeles, Mr. Biden and other world leaders at the summit will announce a new economic focus for the region, and hone in on immigration, climate change, COVID-19 and food security. Last week, Jean-Pierre insisted those priorities are the focus, not drama over the guest list.
"So there is an array of issues for the region that we are going to discuss," she said. "These are priorities. These are incredibly important. And that's what you're going to see for next week."
Ed O'Keefe and Sara Cook contributed to this report.
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