OPINION

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photo: Google

By RICARDO CASTILLO

Every day he is asked the same question, and every day he continues to hem and haw. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) just can’t seem to make up his mind whether to attend next week’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California.

An old adage says that you can only stretch a rubber band so much before the rubber bursts. That’s what seems to be happening with AMLO’s maybe-maybe-not attendance of the summit, organized by U.S. President Joe Biden.

For the past week, AMLO has been leaving behind a ever-more-ambiguous stele of doubt as to his assistance. He has claimed that his refusal would be forthcoming if the White House did not invite all of the continent’s 35 presidents to the powwow.

At this point, AMLO is demanding a direct answer from the organizer.

“What I am expecting is a direct answer from President Biden or the U.S. State Department,” López Obrador said. “I am still waiting for invitations to be issued to all American nations so that, in effect, it be a true summit of the Americas, with no one left out.”

Looking back to AMLO’s statements in April, all indications were that AMLO would attend without further ado. Then, in early May, he made a five-nation tour, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize and Cuba. After personally meeting with the leaders of these five nations, he apparently changed his mind and decided to send Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard as his proxy.

Though the White House issued a formal written invitation to AMLO last week, the Mexican president demanded more.

“We are going to wait for a formal response and from there on make a decision,” he said, apparently oblivious of the protocol that the host decides who to invite, not the guests.

“I am not seeking a confrontation with President Biden … who´s always telling me that we have to have an equal-footing relation. But I am waiting for him to  put that principal into practice.”

AMLO has repeatedly criticized the United States for its economic embargo against Cuba, which he has called unfair and medieval.

The United States has indicated that it will not invite Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua because of none of the three are democratic nations.

After his Central American and Caribbean tour, AMLO began recalling recent history and apparently came to the conclusion of that Mexico, along with Central American nations, have a bone to pick with the United States.

He recalled that former U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to impose a 25 percent tariff surcharge on all Mexican exports back in 2020 if AMLO did not do something to stop the massive flow of migrants from Central America. In response, AMLO employed Mexico’s then-new National Guard to set up a very successful block on the Guatemalan border which finally halted migration.

It was in those days, he said Tuesday, May 31, that he struck a deal with the Trump administration to pump a $4 billion investment into Central America to create economic conditions that would allegedly prevent potential migrants from abandoning their home nations. He’s complained that Trump first and Biden later did not keep that promise.

AMLO’s resentment against the United States has increased since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Biden is pushing aide worth a lot more in weapons systems for the Ukrainians to fend for themselves, while, López Obrador claimed, nothing has gone to Central America.

At this point, it seems unlikely that AMLO will attend the summit, and it seems equally unlikely that he will be all the missed, at least by the Republicans and a growing number of Democrats, all of whom are losing patience with the Mexican leader.

Though at a glance, there seems to be no apparent diplomatic friction between AMLO and Biden administration, but still waters run deep, and there is no telling as to what the absence of the president of Mexico at the Summit of the Americas would mean in the future.

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