Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Monday that he would not attend the Summit of the Americas, hosted later this week by the United States, due to the exclusion of several countries from the region.
Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were not invited to the summit due to the “lack of democratic space and human rights situation” in the countries, a senior Biden administration official said on Monday. in a statement to CNN.
The White House press secretary was more blunt later in the day.
“We just don’t believe dictators should be invited. We don’t regret it and the president will stick to his principle,” Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters after López Obrador announced his boycott.
López Obrador had previously threatened to boycott the summit, traditionally attended by leaders from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean and which meets every few years.
“I’m not going to the summit because not all American countries are invited and I believe that we must change the policy that has been in place for centuries: exclusion, the desire to dominate without any reason, non-respect sovereignty of countries (and) independence of each country,” López Obrador told a press conference in Mexico City. He said the country’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, would be present instead. .
The move is a major snub to President Joe Biden and his administration and threatens to undermine the rally.
Still, the White House insisted that Mexico’s absence would not impede progress. Jean-Pierre said he expected 23 heads of government to attend the meeting, which is being held in Los Angeles.
After announcing he would not attend this week’s summit, López Obrador said Monday he will be heading to the White House next month and hopes to discuss the inclusion of all Americas leaders with Biden.
“We had a frank dialogue with President López Obrador as well as with other regional partners for more than a month regarding the issue of invitations to the summit,” said Jean-Pierre. “It is important to recognize that there is a diversity of views on this issue in our hemisphere, as there is in the United States. The president’s main position is that we don’t think dictators should be invited.
López Obrador’s decision is the culmination of weeks of speculation about the Mexican leader’s ability to convince the Biden administration to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
As the White House rushed to secure attendees for the summit, there had been frustrations among officials that what was expected to be a pivotal event showcasing renewed American leadership in the region had been clouded by a fight over invitations. .
López Obrador’s decision to boycott came after a concerted US effort to bring him in, including lengthy virtual meetings with former Democratic senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who is Biden’s special adviser for the summit.
During an April phone call between Biden and López Obrador, the subject came up again. In a reading, the White House said the men “look forward to seeing each other again at the Summit of the Americas in June.”
But these efforts were not enough to convince the Mexican leader to attend.
In public, US officials have sought to downplay the significance of López Obrador’s participation, insisting that the event could still be successful even in the absence of the leader of one of the world’s biggest nations. Americas.
Officials also privately suggested that López Obrador was performing in front of a national audience by refusing to attend. And they said important agreements on migration, climate change and the economy are still in the works.
Yet unsuccessful efforts to secure the attendance of important leaders in the United States’ own neighborhood point to a more complicated than expected process for organizing this week’s summit. Several officials have said privately that some leaders’ refusal to attend was not fully anticipated when planning for the summit began last year.
Last week, the White House appeared to acknowledge that questions about attendance had subsumed some of the summit’s goals
“There are always questions about who is coming and who is not, but we should also talk and focus on the purpose of this meeting,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
She ignored questions about why everything seemed to fall into place — or not — at the last minute.
“I think if you’ve been following this administration for a year and a half, a week is not the eleventh hour when it comes to the way things are moving. And so it’s a lifetime away for us as the White House,” she said.
This story has been updated with additional information.