By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
After much hemming and hawing, and trying to use his attendance as a political leverage peck against U.S. President Joe Biden, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on Monday, June 6, announced — finally — that he will not attend the four-day Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, which actually had begun that same day.
López Obrador, a staunch supporter of the leftist, dictatorial regimes of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, said during his daily morning press conference at the National Palace on Monday that he would not attend the meeting of Latin American heads of state because it “discriminated” against those three authoritarian countries.
“There cannot be a summit if all countries are not invited,” he said, apparently oblivious of the diplomatic protocol that he who hosts is he who invites, adding that Mexico would instead be represented by Foreign Relations (SRE) Secretary Marcelo Ebrard (a foregone assumption, at this point).
The Mexican president then entered into a 25-minute tirade about the United States’ traditional policy of “interventionism” and the need to be more “democratic” in recognizing the governments of each Latin American country, (even though those countries themselves do not respect the democratic process or the basic human rights of their citizens).
Late Sunday, June 5, the Biden administration released the names of the invited nations, specifying that it had intentionally excluded the three regimes from the list because they were not democratic, a logical decision given that the focus of the summit itself is “strengthening democracies across the Americas.”
Despite repeated appeals from U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar, López Obrador had remained mum for weeks about whether he would attend the summit, stating repeatedly that he would boycott it if it did not include all nations in the hemisphere.
Notwithstanding, López Obrador’s ridiculous (and counterproductive) show of bravado was a relatively moot point since both Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro had already stated that they would not attend the summit, even if they were invited. (And since Maduro has an outstanding warrant pending against him in the United States, that was a rather sound decision on his part.)
But AMLO’s absence did constitute a political blow to the Biden administration, which is struggling to curb a massive increase in illegal immigration into the United States from across its southern border.
The leaders of the main sources of that immigration, besides Mexico — that is Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador –, also stated that they would follow AMLO’s lead and not attend the summit. (Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro had originally threatened to boycott the event but later agreed to attend.)
No doubt, there will be some diplomatic tit-for-tat in the near future on the part of Washington for AMLO’s snub of the summit.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration responded Monday by saying that it “would not include autocratic governments that jail opponents and rig elections,” pointing to a declaration from the 2001 summit in Quebec City, when the region’s governments agreed to bar any nation that breaks with democracy from future gatherings.
The Summit of the Americas was first launched by 1994 by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton in an effort to promote regional free trade.
Since then, it has evolved to include a wide range of topics, including security, development and global competitivity, all topics that should be of utmost relevancy for Mexico.
AMLO thinks that he made a dramatic international statement by refusing to attend the event, but most analysists had already surmised that he would be a no-show and the clatter of his non-attendance will no doubt soon be drowned out by the roar of the summit itself.
Never one to venture out far beyond the confines of his own political backyard, López Obrador has repeatedly refused to participate in global forums or international meetings, instead preferring to stay home and pout that he is not universally admired as Mexico’s self-proclaimed great liberator (which, by the way, he is NOT).
And at the end of the day, much to his dismay, his presence at the summit will not be sorely missed.
What is being missed is one more lost opportunity for Mexico to shine as a real regional leader, setting an example for the entire hemisphere as a beacon of democracy and respect for human rights.