U.S. officials spent weeks negotiating with the Mexican government, trying to lure President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to the summit. Credit … Luis Antonio Rojas for The New York Times
LOS ANGELES – Before the Summit of the Americas, the Biden administration struggled to avoid the embarrassment of a boycott by key leaders, only to find its proposals rejected.
U.S. officials spent weeks negotiating with the Mexican government, trying to find a way to lure President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to a meeting in Los Angeles. Vice President Kamala Harris called on the Honduran leader to persuade her to come. The main aides were sent to try to convince the leaders of El Salvador and Guatemala.
Nothing worked. The heads of state of the four countries have refused to attend the meeting, once for Mr Biden at a time when he was trying to project unity and common purpose throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele did not even telephone Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, according to four people familiar with the disclosure who were not allowed to speak publicly.
The absences have called into question the relevance of a summit that sought to demonstrate cooperation among neighbors, but which instead has loudly voiced fractures in a region that is increasingly willing to challenge U.S. leadership. .
“It shows the deep divisions of the continent,” said Martha Bárcena, the former Mexican ambassador to the United States. Leaders who decided not to attend said Ms. Bárcena, “they are challenging US influence, because US influence has been waning on the continent.”
The Biden administration has said that much can be achieved without presidents at the table, as the foreign ministers sent in their place are equally capable of signing agreements.
“The United States remains the most powerful force in promoting hemispheric action to address the major challenges facing the people of America,” House Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. White.
However, while those not present in the region are boycotting for a variety of reasons, they all appear to be dissatisfied with the way the administration is exercising power.
Mr. López Obrador has been telegraphing for weeks that he would not attend unless the administration invited Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Honduran left-wing president Xiomara Castro joined her car and said she would also retire unless the meeting included those countries.
Leaving them out of the summit, said López Obrador, “means continuing the policy of antiquity, of interventionism, of disrespect for nations and their people.”
The leaders of Guatemala and El Salvador seemed more concerned with their own relationship with the United States than with the guest list.
In taking office, the Biden administration went on the offensive against corruption in both countries, sanctioning high-ranking officials and calling for perceived efforts to weaken the democratic institutions of the two Central American governments.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said he would not attend the summit a day after Mr. Blinken said the election of his government’s attorney general was involved in “significant corruption.”
“I sent word that I will not go,” said Mr. Giammattei, added: “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 meaning of the handshake and the photographs when the dialogue between the two countries was so fundamentally broken.