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Biden advisers insist Americas summit will produce results despite no-show by Mexico's president

BidenAMLO2021.jpeg
Susan Walsh
/
AP
President Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (left) at the White House last year.

Summit adviser and former Miami Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell says a strong hemispheric immigration resolution is coming, with or without AMLO.

The ninth Summit of the Americas got off to a rocky start in Los Angeles on Monday when Mexico’s president and other hemispheric leaders refused to attend. But advisers to the host, President Biden, insist those heads of state won’t derail the summit.

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, is protesting the U.S.’s exclusion of non-democratic Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the event. That matters because the hemispheric immigration crisis is at the top of the summit’s agenda, and Mexico is a key U.S. partner in confronting it.

But former Miami Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a summit special adviser to Biden, told WLRN that a strong immigration resolution will still come out of the event.

“We can actually come together to put in place policies that enforce safe, orderly and humane migration," Mucarsel-Powell said from Los Angeles. "That will entail the resources needed to do that. As you know, this is not only an issue that affects the U.S. southern border. It’s affecting countries like Colombia,” which in recent years has taken in hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan refugees.

Other leaders like Xiomara Castro, the president of Honduras — one of the hemisphere’s biggest sources of migrants — are also protesting the summit and staying home. They will have representatives there. But Mucarsel-Powell feels their absence could help elevate the role of the summit’s important but often overlooked civil society participants.

“We have so many people attending the summit who are really committed to ensuring we tackle issues threatening democratic governance and ways that we can strengthen our public health systems, especially after the COVID pandemic," said Mucarsel-Powell.

"This is their opportunity to engage with government leaders.”

Along with the immigration crisis, the backsliding of democracy is another serious concern confronting the summit. Mucarsel-Powell will open the civil society session on the crisis of political prisoners in countries like Cuba.

The Summit of the Americas has been held every three or four years since the first gathering in Miami in 1994.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.