As President Joe Biden heads to Summit of the Americas, focus shines on leaders who won’t be there

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President Joe Biden depats the White House on Marine One on May 30. He left Washington, DC, on Wednesday to attend the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

June 8 (UPI) — President Joe Biden headed west to California on Wednesday to open the Summit of the Americas — an event that officials hoped would be a shot in the arm for the administration on the international stage, but may instead turn out to be a pain in the neck .

The summit was intended to include leaders from South America to Canada and produce meaningful actions on various concerns, such as COVID-19, immigration and climate change.

Biden was scheduled to leave Washington, DC, just before noon EDT and arrive in Los Angeles roughly five hours later. After arrival, he was scheduled to meet with delegation heads from other countries and speak at the summit’s inaugural ceremony later at 8:15 pm EDT.

Vice President Kamala Harris, a former Senator from California, will also attend the summit and speak Wednesday evening.

As Biden went to Los Angeles on Wednesday, however, much of the focus so far has been on leaders who have said they won’t be there.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who’s said to be a fan of former President Donald Trump, says he’s not going because Biden’s White House did not invite some leaders of the 35-nation Organization of American States.

Leaders from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua were not invited to the summit, which is being hosted this year by the United States. Biden’s administration has previously said that it would only invite countries that are committed to democracy and human rights. Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have been criticized for their records on those issues.

“Looking at the current situation in Cuba, in particular with trials of civil society leaders and similar situations in Nicaragua and Venezuela, we felt that the most appropriate decision was to maintain our own commitment to democracy and human rights in our hemisphere,” Assistant US Secretary of State Brian Nichols said according to NPR.

Other nations that won’t attend the summit in Los Angeles include Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

President Biden did not invite leaders from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela (pictured) to attend the summit in Los Angeles, due primarily to their past records on issues like democracy and human rights, White House officials said. File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/EPA-EFE

The White House said in a statement on Tuesday partners at the summit plan to “push back against the threats to our democracies by fortifying democratic institutions, investing in civil society, strengthening independent media, and following through on a regional digital transformation that is transparent and equitable.”

According to administration officials, $477 million has been dedicated so far to implementing the Inter-American Action Plan on Democratic Governance — which aims to fortify democracy and human rights, fight corruption and support the rule of law in the Western Hemisphere.

Working with Congress, the administration said $75 million will be invested over three years to help empower 300 locally based, community-led civil society organizations.

Another piece of Biden’s “democratic renewal agenda” at the summit will be the launch of the Voices Initiative, which intends to promote digital democracy and counter digital authoritarianism, promote freedom of expression and strengthen independent media.

Biden also supports the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, and Canada and Chile are expected to join the United States in the effort.

At the summit, which runs through Friday, Biden is expected to announce key investments in Central America, explore problems related to immigration and cooperate on continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Summit of the Americas is held every three years and is hosted by various nations in the OAS. The last summit was held in Peru in 2018. The Los Angeles summit was originally scheduled for last year, but was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Joe Biden signs into law, nine bipartisan bills that will honor and improve care for America’s veterans in the State Dining Room of the White House on Tuesday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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