LOS ANGELES (AFP) – President Joe Biden tried to present a unified vision for the Western Hemisphere on Thursday, but the Summit of the Americas quickly turned into open disagreement, a clear example of the difficulties in bringing North and South America together around shared goals on immigration, the economy and climate. .
“There is no reason why the Western Hemisphere cannot be the most forward-looking, democratic, prosperous, peaceful and secure region in the world,” Biden said at the start of the summit. “We have unlimited potential.”
In the wake of Biden’s remarks, Blaise Prime Minister John Briceno publicly objected to the countries being excluded from the summit by the United States and to the continued US embargo on Cuba.
“This summit belongs to all of the Americas – so it is inexcusable that there are countries in the Americas that are not here, and the strength of the summit is diminished by its absence,” Briceno said. “At this most critical juncture, when the future of the hemisphere is at stake, we stand divided. That is why the Summit of the Americas should have been inclusive. Geography, not politics, is what defines the Americas.”
Biden faced additional criticism from Argentine President Alberto Fernandez.
“We certainly would have liked a different summit for the Americas,” Fernandez said in Spanish. The silence of the absent calls us.
The backlash to the exceptions occurred despite a consensus being reached at a 2001 summit in Quebec City that undemocratic governments would not be included in future conferences. The US president spoke again later and tried to iron out the differences by focusing on the issues at hand rather than the guest list.
“I think we’re off to a strong start,” Biden said. “We’ve heard a lot of important ideas that have been raised. “Despite some disagreements regarding participation, what I heard was almost uniform on matters of substance.”
Disparities in wealth, governance, and national interests make it difficult for Biden to replicate the partnerships he has forged in Asia and Europe. That had already created low expectations at the summit hosted by the United States for the first time since 1994.
With diplomatic efforts strained by summit boycotts and legislative proposals stranded in a polarized Congress, Biden has focused on trying to persuade businesses and the private sector to support his efforts. However, the summit did not live up to the promise made by the President of the United States, particularly with the notable boycott of the summit by the President of Mexico and uncertainty over whether the right incentives exist for Latin America to draw closer to the United States.
“It has always been difficult to find consensus in Latin America,” said Ryan Berg, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. “This is a very diverse area, and it is clearly difficult for them to speak with one voice.”
On a day full of diplomacy, Biden met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau They agreed to visit Canada in the coming months, two government officials familiar with the plans told The Associated Press. They were not allowed to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Biden also held talks with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, An ally of former President Donald Trump. Bolsonaro is running for a second term and has been casting doubt on the credibility of his country’s elections, which has alarmed officials in Washington.
The meeting could have been full of tension, as the leader of Brazil asked Three ministers of the Brazilian president’s government, who requested anonymity to discuss the issue, said the US president had not confronted him about his election attacks.
Biden avoided confrontation in his opening remarks to reporters, saying that “the main driver of our relationship is our relationship between our two peoples.” He added that Brazil had made some “real sacrifices” in protecting the Amazon.
Bolsonaro has been defensive about his country’s record in the Amazon, saying “we stand as an example in the eyes of the world when it comes to the environmental agenda.” He said he was committed to preserving democracy and hoped to promote peace after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In a day full of diplomacy, Vice President Kamala Harris met with Caribbean leaders to talk about clean energy, and First Lady Jill Biden was hosting a brunch to build relationships with her husbands. The day was scheduled to end with a dinner at Getty Villa, an art museum overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The nature of democracy itself has become a sticking point when planning the guest list for the event. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wanted to invite the leaders of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, but the United States resisted because it considered them authoritarians.
In the end no agreement was reached, and Lopez Obrador decided not to attend. Nor did the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
It’s a reminder that relations with Latin America have proven difficult for the administration even as it solidifies ties in Europe, where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to closer cooperation, and in Asia, where growing Chinese influence has affected some countries in the region.
One challenge is the apparent power imbalance in the hemisphere.
World Bank data shows that the US economy is 14 times the size of Brazil, the second largest economy at the top. The sanctions that the United States and its allies have imposed on Russia are much more difficult in Brazil, which imports fertilizers from Russia. Trade data indicates that the region has deep ties to China, which has also made investments.
This leaves the United States in a position to show Latin America why a close relationship with Washington will be more beneficial at a time when economies are still struggling to emerge from the pandemic, and inflation has exacerbated conditions.
Buck reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Deborah Alvares in Brasilia, Brazil, Rob Gillies in Toronto, Canada, and Elliot Spagat in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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