May 23, 2022

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Mexico's president threatens to skip Summit of the Americas

Mexico’s president threatens to skip Summit of the Americas

The Mexican president said, on Tuesday, that he would not attend next month’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles if the Biden administration excluded Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. – Adding his voice to the growing warnings of a boycott by some leaders across the region.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had said in recent weeks that the US government should not exclude anyone from the summit, but he had not previously threatened to stay home.

“If they are excluded, if not everyone is invited, a representative of the Mexican government will go, but I will not,” Lopez Obrador said during his daily press conference, following a visit to Cuba.. He said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, would be leaving.

The absence of the Mexican president will be a blow to the summit, which is expected to deal extensively with the issue of immigration at the US-Mexico border. The Biden administration has worked for months to build a regional consensus. Cabinet members are visiting the region to urge allies to strengthen immigration controls and expand their asylum programs.

President Joe Biden said in March, when he hosted Colombian President Ivan Duque at White House.

He called for “a new framework for how countries across the region can collectively manage migration in the Western Hemisphere”.

Such cooperation would be critical as the United States grapples with the problem of large numbers of migrants arriving at its southern border and prepares to lift restrictions on asylum applications there later this month that is expected to attract more migrants to the North.

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US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols previously said that the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have shown that they do not respect democracy and are unlikely to receive invitations. The United States does not even recognize Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro as the country’s legal leader.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was noncommittal when asked about the invitations on Tuesday, saying “no final decision has been made.”

“We have not made a decision yet on who will be invited and no invitations have been sent yet,” Psaki said during her daily media conference.

Caribbean leaders also discussed a collective boycott of the summit if countries are excluded and criticized the US plan to invite Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. The United States recognizes him as the legitimate head of that country, but many Caribbean nations do not.

We do not believe in the policy of abandoning Cuba and Venezuela. We do not recognize Juan Guaido as President of Venezuela. In these circumstances, Antigua and Barbuda will not participate,” said the Prime Minister of that country, Gaston Brown.

He said that consensus to boycott the summit if countries are excluded emerged from the meeting of Caribbean foreign ministers in Belize in March, “but I’m not sure if that consensus will last.”

“If Guaido went to represent Venezuela, if the Americans did that it would be an act of folly,” Saint Vincent’s prime minister, Ralph Gonçalves, said in an interview with a radio program over the weekend, saying that Saint Vincent might not attend if Maduro was excluded.

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Cuba is an active member of the Caribbean Community of Nations and the Communist-ruled island has offered thousands of free scholarships to medical, engineering, and other Caribbean students since the mid-1970s. Successive Venezuelan governments have helped the Caribbean nations with ready-made housing and cheap oil.

A senior Biden administration official said the backlash was largely in response to a strong diplomatic thrust from Cuba — a perennial touchstone of the left in Latin America — and that the United States expects few leaders to follow through on threats to skip the summit.

Behind the scenes, several Caribbean leaders have indicated they intend to attend, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic contacts.

The official said the administration expects both Lopez Obrador and Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro to attend.

Cuba was excluded from the first six hemisphere summits, held from 1994 to 2012. But Cuba was invited to the 2015 meeting in Panama after growing threats to boycott leftist Latin American leaders if they were excluded – as well as improved relations with the United States under President Barak Obama, who met Cuban leader Raul Castro at the event.

Cuba was also invited to the last summit in Peru in 2018, but Castro sent his foreign minister instead because Venezuela’s Maduro did not receive an invitation. Nor did US President Donald Trump attend.

Argentina, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, also issued an appeal this month to avoid excluding any government.

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In a tweet, she called the summit a “great opportunity to build a meeting space for all hemispheric nations” and urged organizers to “avoid exceptions that impede all hemisphere voices from participating in and being heard.”

Lopez Obrador left open the possibility of him attending if the Biden administration invited all countries. He noted that previous summits did not exclude any country and blamed the current situation on political minorities in the United States that support a “hostile policy”.

“There is still time before the summit and we can come to an agreement, but we must all unite and look for America’s unity,” he said.

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Goodman reports from Cleveland, Ohio. Associated Press writers Will Visert in Washington and Bert Wilkinson contributed to this story from Georgetown, Guyana.