It’s another fine international mess the White House has gotten into. As the host of the Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles starting June 6, the Biden administration chose not to invite Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan heads of state to the triennial gathering of North and South American leaders. This decision offended Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who snubbed the White House by declining to attend, sending instead Mexico’s foreign minister. In the lofty atmosphere of diplomatic gatherings, cocktail receptions, and high-stakes schmoozing, Lopez Obrador’s offering a cabinet official instead of himself is a big nose-thumb at Biden’s State Department.
So Biden’s team is working diligently to ensure the soiree is not a dud. “To bolster turnout and avert a flop, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris worked the phones in recent days speaking with the leaders of Argentina and Honduras, both of whom expressed support for Mexico’s proposed boycott,” The Washington Times reported. Whether Harris successfully found the root causes of Argentina’s and Honduras’ leadership siding with Mexico’s president is not known.
“The boycott of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and possibly some other leaders could diminish the relevance of the summit in Los Angeles, where the United States aims to address regional migration and economic issues,” explained Matt Spetalnick and Dave Graham, correspondents for Reuters. But politics is never far from what motivates the Biden administration. “Miami’s large Cuban American community, which favored Trump’s harsh policies toward Cuba and Venezuela, is seen as an important voting bloc in Florida in November elections that will decide control of the US Congress,” the reporters explained. So, naturally, the Biden foreign policy team wagered that not inviting Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela to the Organization of American States (OAS) bash would be perceived as being tough on socialists and dictators.
In fairness, other OAS leaders questioned the value of having dictators and socialists in attendance. Despite Lopez Obrador’s assertion, “There can’t be a Summit of the Americas if not all the Countries of the American continent are taking part,” Colombia’s President Iván Duque Márquez disagreed. He told Fox News:
“All the members of the Organization of American States, we all defend democracy. And if you want to be a member of the organization, you have to defend democracies. So, I clearly believe that the Summit of the Americas shall not be an instrument of non-democratic regimes to participate in order to try to get diplomatic legitimacy. I think no dictatorship shall participate in the Summit of the Americas.”
However, who shows and who doesn’t may be the least of the Biden administration’s worries. The warnings on the street in Los Angeles focus on which of the highways and byways to avoid. Traffic is expected to be fierce – more so than usual. In addition, there will be competing “summits” in downtown LA. “Community, progressive, pro-labor and other groups … are teaming up to host an alternative to the Summit of the Americas at Los Angeles Trade Technical College,” the Daily News warns. Reports are there are at least four other “summits” planned, and a “multi-organization” protest is scheduled for Wednesday, June 8. “What we know for sure is that practical problems will impact many thousands of Angelenos. DTLA (Downtown LA) will be jammed with freeway and road closures,” the Daily News continued.
Of course, hobnobbing with other countries’ presidents, grazing the hors d’oeuvre tables, and acting important is essential international diplomatic fare. But not receiving an invitation or purposefully snubbing the event may be the best outcome for the missing heads of state.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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