Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says he will not attend Summit of the Americas
In a calamitous few months for Mexico’s diplomatic footprint and reputation in Washington, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared that he will boycott this year’s ninth Summit of the Americas, scheduled for June 6-10 in Los Angeles, if the Biden administration does not invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. To top it off, he then cheerfully declared a week later that the American “blockade” of Cuba was “genocidal”. This latest rant capped months of ambiguous positioning by López Obrador regarding Russia’s unwarranted invasion of Ukraine, including the president’s tone-deaf decision to refrain from suspending Russia’s status as a permanent observer nation. in the Organization of American States and as a member of the United Nations. Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The end result is growing bewilderment and concern – both in the United States and among many foreign policy and media and opposition pundits in Mexico – as to why a president who had essentially ignored the foreign policy during his campaign and his first three years in office (infamously to affirm that “the best foreign policy is domestic policy”) suddenly decided halfway through his six-year term to get into the mix and monopolize the bandwidth of the Foreign Office with a disturbingly politically charged style personal stranger.
For a prickly, chauvinistic leader who assiduously insists that Mexico, like the rest of the world, should basically mind its own business and not meddle – a parapet behind an outdated view of national sovereignty – what he considers to be solely the internal affairs of other nations, López Obrador seems oblivious to the fact that his public sandbag of President Joe Biden is playing into the hands of the Republican Party and could politically corner the US president, less than six months before the mid- mandate. As Florida increasingly transitions from a purple state to a red state, its large Cuban-American and smaller Venezuelan-American voting blocs are up for grabs as potential kingmakers — especially in Miami-Dade. , the largest voter-rich county in the state. Given former President Donald Trump’s successful pandering of Cuba politics to score electoral points and add the state to his 2020 Electoral College tally, the Mexican leader’s gamble puts the White House in a tricky position. The Biden administration must now find a way to deal with the threat of non-participation by an important regional partner, without giving the impression of pandering to the demands of López Obrador and even more alienating key voters in Florida, or even worse, by making themselves – and the president – look weak.
López Obrador’s decision to use Cuba as a foil is all the more troubling since he was conspicuously silent and never raised the issue – some would even say he dared not – for the two years where he coincided in power with Trump, a man who he recently describe as someone “he loves” who has set back the Obama administration’s efforts to slowly engage with Cuba diplomatically. Given his sudden decision to restore his pro-Cuban image, many observers in Washington might think that López Obrador is determined to undermine Biden, sabotaging the summit and handing Trump and other Republicans the narrative of a US president unable to successfully convene a summit of hemispheric nations.
Moreover, as two parallel tracks of globalization merge, one around the United States and the other around China, an anemic Summit of the Americas would be a geopolitical boost for Beijing. And while the potential absence of the leaders of Latin America’s two largest countries would be a slap in the face for the United States, López Obrador and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro each have different political and diplomatic reasons and calculations for threatening not to not participate. To begin with, it would not be surprising if they both (as well as other leaders around the world) felt that there was no urgent need to expend diplomatic capital in the relationship with this administration being given that Trump – or the GOP, with whom both López Obrador and Bolsonaro certainly feel more comfortable – could return to the White House in 2025. The two men clearly preferred and probably betting on Trump’s re-election against Biden. “Lula” da Silva, ahead of the presidential elections in October. So he would probably rather stay home than go to California.
For his part, the Mexican president could even have decided that his government could afford to put a finger in the eye of the current administration, because he considers that he already has enough influence on Washington with his support for the demands Americans to contain migratory flows. north through Mexican territory. He may also want to prove that he is not entirely subservient to US interests, or he may feel spurred on by the praise he is receiving from some regional leaders – in Honduras and Bolivia – over his threat to boycott the Mountain peak.
There are certainly other drivers of this decision. The justification for López Obrador’s ambush of Biden may be ideologically driven by a fondness for the Cuban regime and, as a politician who cut his teeth in the 1970s, a moldy understanding of a bygone era. international and inter-American relations. It could also be motivated by its inability to respond to Cuban requests for concrete support (through remittances of oil and/or funds), or even something more inscrutable and troubling. After his official visit to Cuba in May, López Obrador announced that Mexico would take in another cadre of Cuban doctors. His trip and his decision to use Cuba as an excuse again shake his saber on U.S. continental policy could also be explained by a potential growing reliance on Cuban intelligence, now that Mexico’s national security agency, CISEN, has been dismantled and bureaucratically gutted by the measures of President’s austerity and his purge of institutions and agencies he does not trust. It would also partly explain why, unlike the foreign trips of Mexican leaders, López Obrador traveled to Havana with his Secretaries of the Army and Navy. It could also just be the president lashing out at a more assertive US stance on Mexico’s energy policies or The United States is concerned about impunity and the registration number of Mexican journalists killed so far this year.
Regardless of his motives, boycotting the summit is his own goal for Mexico’s long-term strategic interests. For starters, López Obrador should realize that for a country like Mexico, not being at the table could mean that it ends up being on the menu, and that Mexican diplomacy, already impacted by Mexico’s inconsistent and disappointing positions regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, means that the country – both regionally and globally – will continue to underweight on the international stage.
One of the unwritten rules — a paradigm even — of the relationship that has developed between Mexico and the United States since the successful negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its parallels in 1993 was to avoid surprising each other and minimize unilateral decisions that would catch either partner off guard. While Trump has certainly energized this diplomatic practice – and many others – during his tenure, it is now López Obrador’s turn to cross that red line with his demagoguery regarding the summit. It’s one thing to plead with Biden in a one-on-one phone call – as López Obrador did with Biden on April 29 – on behalf of the inclusion of all nations of Latin America and the Caribbean at the top. It’s a whole different matter then. disclose the request during López Obrador’s daily press conference immediately after the call, then upping the ante after the visit to Cuba and publicly issue an ultimatum the next day threatening to boycott the summit unless Havana is invited.
The test of belonging to the community of democracies is simple. Its evidence is the degree to which an ally and a partner are willing to cooperate to strengthen the global commons, protect mutual values and interests and a rules-based international system, show solidarity with people facing violations or to constraints on their human rights, and calling for democratic backsliding and authoritarianism. By embracing and providing cover for dictatorships and illiberal regimes in the Americas, López Obrador ensures that Mexico fails this test and becomes another poster child for anti-American nationalist postures in the region.
Moreover, he continues to believe – reverting to an outdated practice from Mexico’s diplomatic manual in the 1970s that would thumb his nose at the United States in the region while maintaining a minimally functional relationship with Washington – that he may have its cake and eat it too when it comes to ties with the United States, Mexico’s largest trading partner and most important nation for its prosperity and well-being. With a more political approach to foreign policy, he could also become Washington’s strategic partner of choice in the Americas. Instead, López Obrador chose the path of time-worn bromides and diplomatic irrelevance.