President Joe Biden’s hopes of strengthening ties with Latin America, on crucial issues such as immigration, were severely dashed on Monday (June 6) by his Mexican counterpart who decided to boycott the “Summit of the Americas” opened in Los Angeles. Angeles to protest against the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. These three countries were not invited, a White House official confirmed to Agence France-Presse on Monday, stressing the “reservations” of the United States regarding “the lack of democratic space and respect for human rights” in these three countries. The Cuban government denounced the US decision not to invite him as “undemocratic and arbitrary”.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador had made it known that he would not make the trip under such conditions, and he carried out his threat. “I’m not going to the top because we don’t invite all the countries of America. I believe in the need to change the policy that has been imposed for centuries: exclusion,” Lopez Obrador told reporters. It is its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, who will represent Mexico, but the absence of Mr. Lopez Obrador automatically weighs on the scope of the decisions that could be taken at the end of the summit.

“Mexico is an important player in the hemisphere. We are very pleased that […] Foreign Minister Ebrard is present,” reacted Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department. The Cuban government has denounced the US decision not to invite him as “undemocratic and arbitrary”.

Immigration as a major theme

According to Joe Biden’s main adviser for Latin America, Juan Gonzalez, the American president will use the Summit of the Americas to make announcements on economic cooperation and the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic as well as against climate change. The 79-year-old Democrat, who will only travel to Los Angeles on Wednesday, also hopes to conclude a regional cooperation agreement on a politically explosive subject, and which has earned him fierce criticism from the Republican opposition: immigration, a major issue. domestic policy in the run-up to the midterm elections.

The number of people seeking to enter the United States after fleeing poverty and violence in Central America and Haiti is on the rise. The Biden administration has so far failed to keep its promise to pursue a revamped immigration policy, which it wants to be more humane than that of the Trump mandate.

“the United States will disappoint”

Washington has secured the arrival of some major leaders, from center-left Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez to Brazilian far-right head of state Jair Bolsonaro. But the Mexican president’s absence will be seen as “meaningful,” according to Benjamin Gedan, who directs Latin American studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The researcher also notes that, where China is investing heavily in the region, the American president has so far not announced any substantial economic effort.

“The summit will have to be judged by the United States’ proposals in terms of trade access, loans and assistance to finance recovery and infrastructure in the region,” said Benjamin Gedan. “And on these points, the United States will inevitably disappoint,” he said.

The Summit of the Americas was launched in 1994 in Miami by President Bill Clinton, who wanted to launch a vast regional trade liberalization agreement. But free trade is no longer on the rise, neither in the United States nor elsewhere, and in this respect Joe Biden has not basically broken with the protectionist reflexes of his predecessor Donald Trump.