Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would stay away from a regional summit in Los Angeles to protest the exclusion of three far-left countries
President Joe Biden’s plans to reboot US engagement with Latin America — especially on critical topics like migration — took a major hit after key partner Mexico snubbed a regional summit opening Monday in Los Angeles to protest Washington’s exclusion of three far-left countries.
What was meant to be a week-long showcase of cooperation looks more likely to become a display of division that reflects diminishing clout over a region where long-time US economic and diplomatic influence faces a growing Chinese challenge.
In response, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would stay away.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard will represent Mexico instead, but the leftist populist leader’s absence will diminish the impact of a summit where US-Mexico relations are at the heart of major immigration and trade issues.
In Havana, the communist Cuban government issued a statement calling Biden’s decision “anti-democratic and arbitrary.”
The US president, who flies to Los Angeles on Wednesday, also hopes to secure an agreement to help regulate surges of migration from the region’s poorer and violent countries to the United States — a major concern for US voters and an area where Republican opponents see Biden as vulnerable in upcoming midterm elections.
State Department spokesman Ned Price played down the seriousness of the spat with Lopez Obrador, saying “we understand his position” and that the US-Mexican relationship is “broad and deep.”
The Biden administration also notes it has secured the presence of other key regional players, including Argentina’s left-leaning Alberto Fernandez and Brazil’s far-right Jair Bolsonaro.
The boycott has been “a really unfortunate subplot in the run-up to the summit because it has drained an enormous amount of US diplomatic energy for a bizarre cause celebre,” Gedan said.
But, he added, it was unclear whether Biden will bring substantial resources to the table, in contrast to China’s lavish infrastructure spending and trade privileges.
– ‘Progressively less ambitious’ –
The United States has since soured on free trade, with Biden following the lead of his predecessor Donald Trump, who said such pacts hurt US workers.
Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, recently told a congressional hearing that each summit has become “progressively less ambitious.”
Michael Shifter, a senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue, said the drama over summit attendance showed Washington’s waning hold over the region as China muscles in.
Originally published as Mexico snub throws Americas’ summit into disarray