Biden Hosts Summit of the Americas: Live Updates

Credit…Luis Antonio Rojas for The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — In the run-up to the Summit of the Americas, the Biden administration hastened to avoid the embarrassment of a boycott by key leaders — only to have its overtures rejected.

US officials have spent weeks negotiating with the Mexican government, trying to find a way to lure President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the Los Angeles meeting. Vice President Kamala Harris called the Honduran leader to persuade her to come. High-level aides were sent to try to convince the leaders of El Salvador and Guatemala.

Nothing worked. Heads of state from all four countries refused to attend the meeting, a blow to Mr Biden at a time when he sought to project unity and common purpose across the Western Hemisphere.

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele did not even call Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, according to four people familiar with the device who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The absences cast doubt on the relevance of a summit that was supposed to demonstrate cooperation between neighbors but instead loudly aired divisions in a region that is increasingly willing to challenge US leadership.

“It shows the deep divisions on the continent,” said Martha Bárcena, Mexico’s former ambassador to the United States. Leaders who opted out, Ms. Bárcena said, “are challenging American influence, because American influence has diminished on the continent.”

The Biden administration has said much can be accomplished without presidents at the table, because the foreign ministers sent in their place are just as capable of signing deals.

“The United States remains the most powerful force in leading hemispheric action to address the key challenges facing the peoples of the Americas,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

Yet while the region’s no-shows are boycotting for different reasons, they all seem to be expressing their displeasure with the way the administration wields power.

Mr. López Obrador telegraphed for weeks that he would not attend unless the administration invited Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Honduran leftist President Xiomara Castro joined her bandwagon and said she too would step down unless the meeting included those countries.

Excluding them from the summit, Mr. López Obrador said, “means continuing with the politics of the old, of interventionism, of disrespect for nations and their peoples.”

The leaders of Guatemala and El Salvador seemed more concerned with their own relations with the United States than with the guest list.

Upon taking office, the Biden administration went on the offensive against corruption in both countries, sanctioning senior officials and calling out perceived effort to weaken democratic institutions by the two Central American governments.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei says he won’t go to the summit a day later Mr. Blinken said that his government’s choice of the Attorney General was involved in “significant corruption”.

“I made it known that I would not go,” Mr Giammattei said, adding, “As long as I am president, this country will be respected and its sovereignty will be respected.”

Mr Bukele has not made his reasoning public, but people familiar with the Salvadoran president’s thinking say he did not see the point of handshakes and photo ops as the dialogue between the two country was so fundamentally broken.

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