The nations of Latin America and the Caribbean unite in boycott of Biden’s Summit of the Americas

Leaders of over a dozen countries in the region have condemned the exclusion of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela from the Summit

May 20, 2022 by Tanya Wadhwa
Bolivian President Luis Arce pictured with Mexican President AMLO (Photo via: Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional)

The United States is having trouble advancing its traditional imperialist agenda in Latin America. The Biden administration has been facing strong resistance from scores of Latin American and Caribbean countries with regard to the 9th Summit of the Americas, to be hosted by the US in Los Angeles, California. In recent days, leaders of over a dozen countries in the region have condemned the exclusion of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela from the Summit, and have announced that they would boycott the conference if all countries were not invited.

On May 18, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) met with a US delegation to dissuade his nation’s boycott, and to discuss his government’s proposal to invite all Latin American and Caribbean countries, without exception, to take part in the Summit of the Americas, scheduled for June 6-10. The meeting at the National Palace was attended by Mexican Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, the US ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, and the US Special Advisor for the Summit of the Americas, Christopher J. Dodd.

Following the meeting, Foreign Minister Ebrard told local media that the country hoped to receive a response from the US regarding Mexico’s proposal by Thursday, May 19. “Dodd said, ‘I’ll take (the proposal) and I’ll give you a response in the next few hours or tomorrow, President Biden’s response to everything President López Obrador proposed,’” said Ebrard. He also mentioned Mexico would not pressure the United States for a response. “It’s their decision,” he stated. 

Wednesday’s meeting took place in the wake of President AMLO’s announcement that he would not attend the Summit if all countries in the region were not invited, provoking a series of boycotts from other Latin American leaders.

On May 2, the US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols said that the government of Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro were unlikely to receive invitations. On May 10, after having criticized their exclusion for days, during his daily morning press conference, AMLO announced that “if not everyone is invited, a representation of the Mexican government will go. But I wouldn’t go. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard would represent me.”

When asked if his absence would be a protest message, AMLO said “yes, because I don’t want the same policy to continue in America.” The Mexican President added that “we should unite, even if we have differences, we can resolve them by listening to each other and dialoguing.” He pointed out that “if a country does not want to attend, then that is its right. However, how can a summit be ‘of America’ without all the countries of America? From where are those who are not invited? Are they from another unknown continent, planet, or galaxy?”

AMLO particularly insisted that Cuba should be there. Earlier this month, AMLO visited Cuba as a part of his official tour of Central America and Cuba. On May 8, Mexico and Cuba signed an agreement to strengthen bilateral relations between the two nations, and promote development in the educational, cultural, commercial and economic areas, while ratifying cooperation to face the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and other disasters and pandemics. Following the visit, the Mexican President condemned the over 60-year-long US blockade on Cuba, calling on his American counterpart to end the blockade, “a genocidal policy.”

After AMLO, Bolivian President Luis Arce was the second leader to announce that he would not join the Summit if all countries were not invited. “A Summit of the Americas which excludes American countries will not be a full Summit of the Americas. If the exclusion of our brothers continues, I will not participate in it,” said President Arce.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales acknowledged the decision of several Latin American leaders not to attend the Summit. “We highlight the brave decision of our President Luis Arce, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico and Caribbean countries that in protest against the exclusion of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela will not attend the Summit of the Americas, which will be a US Summit of subjugation, blackmail and chastisement,” Morales tweeted recently. Days ago, he had tweeted, “the Summit of the Americas is about to fail, not because of the lack of will for dialogue on the part of the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean, but because of the arrogance and contempt of the United States against our peoples.”

Likewise, leaders of the 14 Caribbean countries that make up the Community of Caribbean States (CARICOM) also announced a collective boycott of the Summit if any nations are excluded. CARICOM also rejected the US invitation to self-proclaimed president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó. Sir Ronald Sanders, the current Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and to the Organization of American States (OAS), highlighted that in March, in the midst of the oil crisis due to the Russia–Ukraine war and subsequent sanctions on Russia, the Biden administration approached the Maduro administration to discuss energy security, not Guaidó. Sanders added that “it is about time that we get rid of the myth that Juan Guaidó is the president of Venezuela.”

Meanwhile, Honduran President Xiomara Castro, Argentine President Alberto Fernández, and Chilean Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola also expressed their rejection and called for an inclusive summit.

On May 17, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei also said that he would not attend the Summit, but for different reasons. He rejected criticism from the Biden administration for reappointing an attorney general, whom the US had accused of protecting the corrupt. During an event at the Mexican Embassy, Giammattei said that “a country’s sovereignty must be respected.”

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is also not expected to attend the Summit. Bolsonaro, who had admired former US President Donald Trump, has never spoken to Biden, and the diplomatic relations between the two countries have gone cold since Biden’s inauguration last year.

The event, which was supposed to be a key moment for the Biden administration’s diplomatic efforts in the region, now faces the challenge of ensuring that it is truly representative.

The Biden administration has made clear that invitations have not gone out and decisions about guests are still being finalized.

In a desperate attempt to meet López Obrador and other leaders halfway, recently, the Biden administration eased some restrictions on Cuban travel and family remittances, and some oil sanctions on Venezuela.

Concurrent to the Summit of the Americas, a coalition of over 100 organizations have organized the People’s Summit for Democracy that will take place in Los Angeles from June 8-10 and seeks to present counter-narrative and proposals: “As Biden’s Summit of the Americas is marked by exclusion and imposition of political agenda, our Summit will bring together diverse voices from across the Americas in order to create our shared vision of democracy and a dignified life for our people.”