Biden struggles in "pond of exclusionary Summit of the Americas"

(Xinhua) 09:47, June 11, 2022

"It is therefore inexcusable that all countries of the Americas are not here, and the power of the summit diminished by their absence," Belize's Prime Minister Johnny Briceno said in his speech.

LOS ANGELES, June 10 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday appeared to swipe at the press, saying they can go "swimming in the pond," as many international and local news outlets questioned the representation of the 9th Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.

Biden made the remarks during his toast at the Summit of the Americas leaders dinner on Thursday, after shrugging off controversy around the gathering, saying he and some on the guest list had "disagreement on something" but "on the central issues that we talked about ... there is overwhelming agreement."

The Biden administration has faced sharp discontent from countries in the Americas over its decision to cut out Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the guest list. Leaders of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador boycotted the meeting, Uruguay's president said he had contracted COVID-19, and Bolivia also declined to attend.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a key Latin American leader on the summit's guest list, announced Monday morning that he would stay at home.

"There cannot be a Summit of the Americas if all countries of the Americas cannot attend," Lopez Obrador said at his daily press conference in Mexico City. "This is to continue the old interventionist policies, of lack of respect for nations and their people."

These notable absences triggered outcries from the media, which described it as a disaster and embarrassment for U.S. diplomacy.

CNN said in a story published Wednesday that the absences of the leaders were notable "since the United States has worked to cultivate those leaders as partners on immigration, an issue that looms as a political liability for Biden."

A video screenshot shows a poster of the 9th Summit of the Americas at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, California, the United States, June 9, 2022. (Xinhua)

"Eight nations did not send a leader-level official to the most important event we have held on the region in decades. Speaks volumes about how badly we've managed relations with our neighbors ..." Brett Bruen, who served in the Obama White House as director of global engagement, tweeted Wednesday.

In a story published by USA Today on Tuesday, Bruen said it was "embarrassing last minute and lackluster work" going into this week's Summit of the Americas that the country was hosting for the first time in nearly 30 years.

The heads of four countries refused to attend the meeting was "a blow to Mr. Biden at a moment when he sought to project unity and common purpose across the Western Hemisphere," The New York Times said Friday.

On Thursday's meeting, shortly after Biden's speech, Belize's Prime Minister Johnny Briceno criticized the exclusion of Cuba and Venezuela on the stage.

"The power of the Summit of the Americas is the space it provides for all the countries of the Americas to dialogue and agree on joint actions. The summit belongs to all of the Americas," Briceno said in his speech, when Biden sat only a few meters away. "It is therefore inexcusable that all countries of the Americas are not here, and the power of the summit diminished by their absence."

Briceno said the exclusionary summit was incomprehensible, especially when "Cuba has provided consistent, unmatched cooperation in health to almost two-thirds of the countries in this hemisphere" and "Venezuela has done so much toward energy security for the Caribbean region."

"The time has come, Mr. President, to lift the blockade and to build bonds of friendship with the people of Cuba. Similarly ... Venezuela's absence is unforgivable," Briceno noted.

Protestors attend a rally near the Los Angeles Convention Center where the ninth Summit of the Americas is held in Los Angeles, the United States, June 8, 2022. (Photo by Zeng Hui/Xinhua)

"The principle of inclusivity must be the touchstone of all future summits. Geography, not politics, defines the Americas," he concluded.

Briceno was followed by Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, who declared "the silence of those who are absent is calling to us" and insisted that the host country did not have the power to impose "right of admission" to the conference.

"We definitely would've wished for a different Summit of the Americas," Fernandez said.

After criticizing the U.S. sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela, the Argentine leader asked the Biden government to "open up in a fraternal way" following Donald Trump's "immensely harmful policy" for the region.

In a story published on Friday, The Washington Post said that since the White House, by excluding the three countries from the summit, "drew its line in the sand, other nations have been rebuking Biden and the United States for what they see as an unfair or even a hypocritical stance."

"The absences have cast doubt on the relevance of a summit that was meant to demonstrate cooperation among neighbors but has instead loudly broadcast rifts in a region that is increasingly willing to defy American leadership," The New York Times said Friday.

The report cited Martha Barcena, the former Mexican ambassador to the United States, as saying that the summit, held in the second largest city of the United States, showed a challenge to U.S. influence, "because U.S. influence has been diminishing in the continent."

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Bianji)


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