Election-year inflation and politics overshadow Biden’s Latin America summit

LOS ANGELES— A three-day trip to rally Latin American and Caribbean leaders behind the president Joe BidenThe Western Hemisphere view left attendees disappointed as the President could not distract his attention from the issues at home.

Visitors to the Ninth Summit of the Americas could not escape the boycott led by the Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on the guest list, despite Washington’s insistence that it would not affect the substantive outcome of the meetings.

Instead, Biden faced a barrage of criticism from other leaders upset with his decision not to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua while failing to quell the skepticism that had taken hold. at the start of the summit. In particular, major economic and migration initiatives have failed, observers said. Among those absent were the leaders of three Central American countries that have seen massive emigration to the United States.

Biden’s top aides said he has no regrets refuse invitations to autocratshis press officer calling the decision a matter of principle.

But Oscar, a Los Angeles 17-year-old resident who spent the week ferrying visiting dignitaries and federal officials to and from the events, said a senior Mexican delegate told him there were ‘a lot of topics they didn’t did not address because of the presidents who could not come”.

White House officials had argued the boycott would change little, with Biden’s national security adviser insisting that “the substantive work of the summit has in no way, shape or form, been touched, adjusted or diminished by the question of participation”. Jake Sullivan noted Mexico’s intention to sign a migration pact as evidence of “these two things operating in entirely separate leagues.”

True to Sullivan’s point, Mexico signed the Los Angeles Declaration in a public ceremony at the end of the summit, along with 19 other Western Hemisphere countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, whose heads of state had also stayed away.

“We’re putting a lot of skin in the game,” a senior administration official said of the statement before conceding that, in part, “it’s an expansion of things we’re already doing.”

The administration’s assurances, however, persuaded few.

“They need a partner, and they haven’t gotten that message here,” said Marcelo Quiroga, program director for the Caribbean region at the International Republican Institute, at an event after the end of the summit attended by regional heads of state and government and Biden’s ambassador to the UN. Quiroga told the Washington Examiner that the United States was ceding ground to China in the region as trade flows between Beijing and the Western Hemisphere tended to increase.

“The United States is losing a lot of space,” he said. “And that doesn’t seem to worry.”

Ryan Berg, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, described many of the proposals as “light on detail,” with some “using only existing US frameworks.” Berg said he was “disappointed” with the results of the summit.

“I can’t help but think there were missed opportunities,” Berg said. “It could have been a splashier event, with bigger and more ambitious initiatives announced. Instead, the lack of a solid program opened the door to political theater by some leaders and a relentless focus on the guest list.

Some have questioned whether Biden’s choice to leave Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua off the invitation list stemmed from political considerations that former President Donald Trump once summarized in a word: “Mami.”

Biden was across town, attending the first of two high-priced fundraisers in Brentwood on Friday when a Democratic congressman suggested another consideration at stake.

“It’s a year of mid-term elections. Florida matters,” Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) told the Washington Examiner at the Jonathan Club across town. “Is that what’s behind the decision?” Not all of that. But it is a factor.

Espaillat suggested the move was counterproductive. “You can’t have a conversation in an echo chamber,” he said, adding, “Not everyone has to agree with you.”

Others argued that the administration’s weak engagement on the continent could worsen many of the problems Washington wanted to address.

“I get it. He’s busy,” Quiroga said of Biden. other countries, including the Caribbean, they need support.

Not everyone was focused on Latin America’s most pressing needs. Across the room, some guests wondered if a woman, her face partially obscured by a dark mask, was Hollywood actress Bo Derek.

The block-wide security perimeter around the towering Los Angeles InterContinental hotel became a point of frustration for local residents trying to navigate downtown. “This whole summit was boring because they got rid of all the scooters,” a local Democratic consultant complained to the Washington Examiner.

Yet others seemed to barely notice, falling asleep outside the gates, a reminder of the city’s troubles, which visiting officials noted in private.

Biden began shifting gears before the summit was over, forgoing plenary leaders’ sessions and civil society roundtables to spend the morning at the Port of Los Angeles. to defend his administration’s inflation-fighting measures as new price data beat expectations.

He returned to the summit for a working lunch with other leaders and to sign the migration declaration before capping off the brief interlude with back-to-back Democratic National Committee fundraisers, his first in-person in Los Angeles since taking office.

In remarks to about 30 guests at the home of Andrew Hauptman and Seagram heiress Ellen Bronfman, first lady Jill Biden defended the president’s handling of the summit and brushed off concerns that Democrats are caving in ahead of the midterm elections under a leader who failed to reckon with economic hardship.

The first lady said that at a dinner party, “Every leader came up to Joe and said, ‘What a difference you’ve made. It’s so good that you’re here. It’s so great that we work together.

The president is “working as hard as he can,” she added. “There are so many haters who say, ‘Oh, you’re never going to win the midterm elections, and the Democrats aren’t going to do well.’ That’s not true. That’s not true. You know, we just have to fight a little harder, we can’t lose our momentum.

But the president faces doubts about his political viability in the office and economic headwinds who threaten to short-circuit his party in the elections voter bitterness on the management of the economy by his administration. As inflation hits its highest level in four decades, polls show people are increasingly worried about the consequences of rising prices for gasoline and daily consumer goods.

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At a second fundraiser at the home of Democratic megadonor Haim Saban, Biden warned that Americans will have to “live with this inflation for a while,” adding that it “is going to come down gradually.”

Others worry that the current price pressures are just the beginning. Oscar said any pain the United States feels will worsen south of the border. “The recession is coming. They don’t say it, but it’s coming,” Oscar said. “If it’s going to affect the United States, imagine how it’s going to affect the whole South.”

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