LOS ANGELES – In the run-up to the Summit of the Americas, the Biden administration scrambled to avoid embarrassing the county by key leaders – only to find its overtures rejected.
US officials spent weeks negotiating with the Mexican government, trying to find a way to entice President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to meet in Los Angeles. Vice President Kamala Harris called the Honduran leader to persuade her to attend. Senior aides were sent to try to impress the leaders of El Salvador and Guatemala.
Nothing works. The heads of state of the four refused to attend the meeting, in a stinging blow to Biden as he sought to show unity and common purpose across the Western Hemisphere.
The Salvadoran president, Neb Bukele, did not even call Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken, according to four people familiar with the outreach and were not allowed to speak publicly.
The absences cast doubt on the importance of the summit, which was supposed to show cooperation between neighbors, but instead loudly sowed rifts in a region increasingly ready to challenge American leadership.
“It shows the deep divisions on the continent,” said Martha Barcena, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States. Ms Barsina said the leaders who decided not to attend were “challenging the influence of the United States, because the influence of the United States is waning on the continent.”
The Biden administration has said that much can be accomplished without presidents at the table, since the secretaries of state sent in their stead are able to sign agreements.
“The United States remains the most powerful force driving action in the Western Hemisphere to address the fundamental challenges facing the peoples of the Americas,” White House press secretary Karen Jean-Pierre said Monday.
However, while interrupting the district’s non-attendance for various reasons, they all seem to express dissatisfaction with the way the administration exercises power.
Mr. Lopez Obrador had telegraphed for weeks that he would not attend unless the administration invited Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Xiomara Castro, the leftist president of Honduras, joined his bandwagon and said she, too, would bow unless the meeting included those countries.
Leaving them off the top, Mr. Lopez Obrador said, “means continuing with old, intrusive, disrespectful policies for nations and their people”.
The leaders of Guatemala and El Salvador seemed more concerned about their relationship with the United States than they were about the guest list.
Upon taking office, the Biden administration launched an attack on corruption in both countries, imposing sanctions on top officials and Call Perceived efforts To weaken democratic institutions by the Central American governments.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giamatti said he would not attend the summit a day later Mr. Blinken said His government’s selection of the attorney general was implicated in “great corruption”.
“I have sent a message that I will not go,” said Mr. Giamatti, adding, “As long as I am president, this country will be respected and its sovereignty will be respected.”
Mr Bukele has not made his reasoning public, but people familiar with the Salvadoran president’s thinking say he did not see the point in shaking hands and taking pictures when the dialogue between the two countries was basically broken.
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