Updated Jun 7, 2022 - World

Summit of the Americas set to kick off as U.S. seeks to reassert influence

Illustration of the earth with the Americas visible behind a velvet rope
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Leaders from across the Americas are set to land in Los Angeles later Monday for a major summit that will focus on migration and other pressing matters.

Why it matters: The Summit of the Americas will return to the U.S. for the first time since it launched in 1994. Washington sees the summit as a chance to strengthen ties to Latin America and the Caribbean, which have become more closely tied to China in recent years.

  • But international squabbles over the guest list have overshadowed the purpose of the summit, which is to foster collaboration among countries in the hemisphere.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador confirmed Monday he will not attend in a blow to President Biden and his administration.
  • "There cannot be a summit if all countries are not invited," López Obrador said, referring to the U.S. exclusion of the autocratic leaders from Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. “Or there can be one but that is to continue with all politics of interventionism.”
  • Meanwhile, leaders from Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Canada, among others have agreed to attend.

Details: Discussions will center on the transition to green energies, migration, and recovering from the economic effects of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

  • The Biden administration is expected to announce that Spain has agreed to take in refugees from the Western Hemisphere for the first time ever, Axios' Stef W. Kight reports.

Between the lines: Some observers warn that recent U.S. policy towards Latin America treats the region as if it were still just the nation's backyard instead of a partner. This could, in turn, pressure countries to choose between the U.S. and China.

  • “It’s a mistake when [Washington] isn’t offering a penny or specific initiatives as counterweight to what China offers while demanding the region not look to China. It shows a lack of acknowledgment of Latin American countries’ needs and dynamics,” Wilson Center distinguished fellow Cynthia J. Arnson says.

What they’re saying: Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, a political analyst and professor of international politics at Torcuato di Tella University in Argentina, says the summit has “little specificity to the agenda, and a dearth of legwork."

  • “It’s a shame because there are so many shared issues primed for there to be dialogue,” he adds, noting that the “relationship decline can’t be fixed by a summit alone.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to provide more context to Cynthia Arnson's quote and add López Obrador's comments on his later decision to not attend.

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