Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks at a news conference in May. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday he would not attend the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week because three authoritarian countries from the region were not invited.

Lopez Obrador told reporters at a regular news conference that Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard would attend the summit in his place, but promised to visit President Biden in July

The Biden administration has opted to exclude the leftist, authoritarian governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the summit.

The Mexican president was one of several leaders who threatened to stay away if not all countries were invited.

Lopez Obrador said policies of “exclusion” that had been imposed “for centuries” needed to change, criticizing what he called an unjustified desire for “domination.” He said he would use his July visit to discuss immigration and push for more U.S. investment in Central America to fight poverty.

Officials in Washington have said the tensions will blow over and that the summit will be successful no matter which leaders choose to attend.

The five-day conference convenes once every three or four years and is expected to address issues including immigration, climate, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States is attempting to repair relations in the region following the anti-Hispanic rhetoric of former President Donald Trump.

Biden is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Wednesday, and Vice President Kamala Harris is already at the conference.

Luis Guillermo Solis, a center-left former Costa Rican president, said Lopez Obrador’s determination to clamor for an inclusive discussion showed off his anti-imperialist credentials, striking a tone with centuries of resonance in the region.

“The easiest way to do it is to symbolically fight with the United States,” Solis said. “It’s a well-known play in our neighborhood.”

The summit aims to promote democratic unity, but the dispute exposed divisions between Washington and governments sympathetic to Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, self-styled leftists who have long been reviled by the U.S. foreign policy establishment.

Costa Rica’s Solis believes the region’s real political fault lines are not between left and right.

“It’s a problem between democracy and authoritarianism,” he said, describing Maduro’s government as “criminal left” and Ortega’s Nicaragua as “more like a monarchy.”

Reuters and City News Service contributed to this article.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.