TIPP Insights: Mexico’s boycott casts a cloud on Biden’s summit



The ninth edition of the Summit of the Americas is underway in Los Angeles. As leaders of the Western hemisphere gather to discuss a broad range of issues, including cross-border cooperation, trade, climate change, and immigration, the shadow of boycott and discontent has cast a pall of disquiet.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s decision to boycott the Summit in a show of solidarity towards Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, countries that were not invited to Los Angeles on the basis of their human rights record and limited democratic freedoms, has raised some uneasy questions for all quarters.

Mexican Agenda

President López Obrador’s almost sudden interest in foreign policy after famously declaring that “the best foreign policy is domestic policy” is perplexing. The Mexican president’s uncharacteristic interest in upholding the cause of inclusion of Latin American and Caribbean countries has raised many eyebrows. There is speculation that his support for the Cuban regime on the world stage is to make up for Mexico’s inability to meet Havana’s requests for commodities like oil. With the country’s national security agency, CISEN, coming under austerity measures, it is likely that President Obrador is now reliant on Cuban intelligence and hence, would go to great lengths to appease the communist regime.

But, President López Obrador’s efforts to upstage the United States, Mexico’s largest trading partner and regional supporter, could yield mixed results at best. While the increased role played by China in the region could be bolstering some of the bravadoes in taking on the U.S., it would serve well to remember that Beijing’s help is often a double-edged sword.

The irony of expressing solidarity with Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba (known Russian allies) while at the same time refusing to do so with Ukraine, which is under attack by Moscow, has not gone unnoticed. By thumbing his nose at Washington, the Mexican President has lost a golden opportunity to truly rise to the status of a strategic partner in the true sense.

Lost Opportunity

Mexico’s absence at the Summit is likely to cause some embarrassment for the Biden administration. America’s position as a leader in the region will be tarnished. While some have cited President Trump’s absence from the Peru edition in 2018, the very relevance of such a Summit will be in question with key nations absent from the list.

At a juncture when crucial issues like global food security, inflation, and fuel production must be addressed, the Summit may fail to achieve its purpose of building consensus in the region. There have been suggestions that the U.S. must bring everyone to the table, irrespective of their political leadership and ideologies.

Mexico is a key U.S. partner in containing trans-migration through the southern neighbor’s territory. With the country boycotting the Summit, the Biden administration has lost an opportunity to find common ground, if not a solution, to the worsening illegal immigration from the south.

By not giving in to President López Obrador’s demands, President Biden and his team, have saved face, for now. It is also clear that the U.S. is no longer the sole aid and supporter of Latin America. Russian and Chinese influence in the region has grown enough to challenge America’s position in its very backyard.

The absence of key nations in Los Angeles, as the U.S. hosts the Summit of the Americas, will likely mean that the exercise was for naught, and ultimately, the entire region will be the worse for it.



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