Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernández at a press conference in Mexico City in February 2021.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernández at a press conference in Mexico City in February 2021.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernández at a press conference in Mexico City in February 2021.ALFREDO STAR (AFP)

The guest list for the next Summit of the Americas has entangled the United States, the host, in a still unresolved diplomatic battle with Argentina and Mexico. The decision of the White House to leave out Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, countries that it accuses of systematically violating human rights, united in the same complaint the two ends of the continent with a week to go before the conclave is held. The Mexican Andrés Manuel López Obrador has already warned that if there is no gesture from Washington, he will not be in Los Angeles on June 6. The Argentine Alberto Fernández also delays his decision, while he negotiates with Mexico a common strategy before the regional event.

The comings and goings between Buenos Aires and Mexico City can be reconstructed from gestures and declarations, evidence that nothing has been decided. Argentine government sources indicated this Thursday that “there will be an Argentine presence” at the summit, but without further details. “Argentina will be present. The chancellor [Santiago Cafiero] will be present, and the president is defining whether he will attend. He has not made the decision yet, ”they told this newspaper. Fernández is playing with his condition as president pro tempore of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), where Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua have voice and vote. There was speculation of holding a summit parallel to the one convened in Los Angeles, but the idea was quickly discarded. Just resolving the visas of eventual CELAC guests would be a problem without a solution. The president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, cannot enter US territory without being arrested, as can Rosario Murillo, vice president of Nicaragua and wife of Ortega.

The United States has given the meeting a special relevance, contrary to the diplomatic detachment that the Donald Trump Administration showed towards the region. On Thursday of last week, President Joe Biden’s special adviser for the Summit of the Americas, former Democratic senator Christopher Dodd, met for more than two hours with Fernández in Buenos Aires. Dodd also visited the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, the Chilean Gabriel Boric and the Uruguayan Luis Lacalle Pou. He returned to Washington with the certainty that the last three would be at the Summit, but he took little away from Fernández.

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At the end of that meeting, the Argentine phoned his Mexican counterpart, who had also held a virtual meeting with Dodd days before. López Obrador himself revealed the existence of the talk the next day and over the weekend he gave more details about its content during a visit to the State of Sinaloa. “We talked about attendance at the summit. So, he asked me a question, we talked about it and there is an agreement, but not to hold a parallel summit in the US, no. [El acuerdo] it is this: that in case it is not accepted to invite all the countries, he, as president of CELAC, speaks that we do not agree with the exclusions”, he stated in statements to Radio Formula.

If this scheme finally materializes, Alberto Fernández will travel to the United States and take the complaint of those absent, especially critical not only of Washington but also of the Organization of American States (OAS), which through a technical secretariat accompanies the organization of the regional meeting. Maduro has already celebrated that possibility. “Your firm voice will be one of the most powerful voices to question the exclusion and the attempt to divide Latin America and the Caribbean. All our support!” the Chavista leader wrote on Twitter last Friday from Havana, where a meeting was being held. Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA).

López Obrador has not officially defined his participation in the meeting either, but he has made it clear that he will not attend if the White House does not invite all the governments of the continent, as several high-ranking US officials have already advanced. The Mexican president, however, requested a formal response from Joe Biden and on Monday recalled that he still has no record of an answer. He attributed it to the Uvalde massacre in Texas, although he did not close the door on that possibility. “I believe that due to this circumstance, President Biden has not been able to give us an answer. But there is time, and we trust him and we are going to wait […]. I think our approach will be taken into account. I repeat, President Biden is a person of good feelings, forward-thinking,” he stated.

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In any case, Mexico will be represented by a delegation headed by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard. In recent weeks, the foreign minister has multiplied contacts with the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, with the US ambassador, Ken Salazar, and part of his team has been fine-tuning the details of the joint agenda with Washington for weeks. The neighboring country is especially interested in reaching prior agreements on economic, migratory, health and security matters in order to defend a joint North American position at the summit. The López Obrador government is not in a position to ignore certain requests from the United States, on which its financial stability depends. But at the same time he wants to look to the south and the president even raised the discussion of a new alternative regional order to the OAS. Mexico, in short, balances before the Summit of the Americas. With these premises, last week Ebrard addressed the celebration of the conclave with the Argentine Foreign Minister, Santiago Cafiero.

This Thursday it is likely that the White House will also take another step in its definition of the meeting. Biden’s adviser for the Western Hemisphere, Juan González, and Deputy Secretary of State Brian Nichols are scheduled to hold a teleconference with the media. Nichols told EL PAÍS three weeks ago that the inclusion of countries “that do not respect democracy” did not seem convenient, referring to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Meanwhile, the meeting in Los Angeles has anticipated the tensions that mark the geopolitical climate in America.

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