This week’s U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles will be missing a major player as Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday he would not attend.
Lopez Obrador said Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard would represent Mexico at the summit.
“There cannot be a summit if all countries are not invited,” Lopez Obrador said. “Or there can be one but that is to continue with all politics of interventionism.”
The Biden administration did not invite the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to the summit, which led to Lopez Obrador’s decision to stay away and pushbacks from others in the Western Hemisphere.
Also Monday, Chilean President Gabriel Boric said in Ottawa that the Biden administration’s decision to exclude these three countries is “an error” and “a mistake,” and he will continue to make that point during the summit.
Boric was speaking alongside with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after their meeting.
In Washington, the U.S. government said it understands Mexico’s position but defends the U.S. decision to exclude Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
“These three countries are not exemplars — to put it mildly — of democratic governance. In recent days alone, the Cuban regime has tried two artists on charges that actually criminalized the freedom of speech and artistic expression in Cuba,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday during a briefing.
He was referring to the trials of dissident artists Maykel Castillo and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara who are facing years in prison after being arrested last year following protests.
“We have seen this regime arrest, detain, hold without charge, hold incommunicado individuals who are doing nothing but expressing the universal right that they have to assemble peacefully to express their views,” Price said.
Price added “these three regimes” pose “insurmountable” challenges to democratic value that is high on agenda.
But representatives of Venezuela’s interim government of Juan Guido will participate in this week’s summit.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials said the Biden administration has been in contact with “civil society stakeholders” from these three countries and they are expected to attend the summit.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard on Sunday night. The State Department said Blinken looks forward to engaging with Ebrard during the summit on a range of issues, including migration, fighting COVID-19 and economic recovery.
Lopez Obrador did say he’d meet with Biden in Washington next month.
The summit is scheduled to run from Monday through Friday. Biden is expected to attend Thursday.
The United States is hosting the Summit of the Americas for the first time since its inaugural meeting in 1994.
Some information in this report comes from Reuters and The Associated Press.