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Biden Welcomes (Some) Leaders to the Summit of the Americas

The Mexican president is the most high-profile absentee from today’s Los Angeles gathering.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
A banner for the ninth Summit of the Americas hangs.
A banner for the ninth Summit of the Americas hangs.
A banner for the ninth Summit of the Americas hangs on the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles on June 6. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the Summit of the Americas, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Turkey, and more news worth following from around the world.

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U.S. Hosts Summit of the Americas

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the Summit of the Americas, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Turkey, and more news worth following from around the world.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


U.S. Hosts Summit of the Americas

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes some—but not all—Western Hemisphere leaders to the ninth Summit of the Americas today in Los Angeles, as he attempts to convince them that amid a war in Ukraine and a policy shift to Asia, the United States also has time and energy to engage the region.

The problem for Biden is that many Latin American leaders aren’t buying the pitch, and expectations are low heading into the event.

Despite some absences, 23 leaders are still expected to gather today as Biden unveils the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, a proposal to boost trade and investment while protecting the environment.

The most high-profile absentee today is Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who on Monday followed through on his threat to boycott the event over the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from the proceedings.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said those countries were not asked to attend because “we just don’t believe dictators should be invited.” (That democratic litmus test isn’t universally applied by the Biden administration, as the recent U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and a potential Saudi Arabia trip suggest.)

A shaky commitment to democracy applies to some of those attending the summit too. According to the Associated Press, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro only agreed to come to Los Angeles on the conditions that he would receive a one-on-one meeting with Biden and that two topics remain off the table: Amazon deforestation and Bolsonaro’s own questioning of the integrity of Brazil’s voting system (an issue that CIA director William Burns has already intervened personally to signal Washington’s displeasure on).

On Venezuela, Washington is persisting in its support for Juan Guaidó, the opposition figure considered the country’s rightful interim leader by the United States. Guaidó and Biden are expected to speak via video this week, even as the United States slowly eases energy sanctions on the Venezuelan government led by President Nicolás Maduro.

Maduro won’t be waiting on a White House call either: He’ll be in Ankara, Turkey, today to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In a sign of more discord with the Biden administration, the leaders of the so-called Northern Triangle—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—will also skip the summit. The decision is a blow to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been tasked with addressing the “root causes” of migration flows from Central American countries.

Dan Restrepo, a former Obama administration official writing in the Los Angeles Times, says it’s time to scrap the Summit of the Americas concept entirely, arguing that “trying to find consensus-driven common ground among these disparate states inevitably leads to pablum with no real-world effects” and accounts for the “personality pageants” that take away from a real discussion.

Restrepo calls for splitting the summit into three regions: the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, and hosting each on a rotating annual basis. That, along with the annual North American leaders summit, “would afford the Western Hemisphere the level of sustained high-level attention that U.S. interests in the region merit,” Restrepo writes.


What We’re Following Today

Erdogan hosts Maduro. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosts Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro today in Ankara in a rare foreign trip for the Latin American leader. “All aspects of Turkey-Venezuela relations will be reviewed and steps to enhance the relations will be discussed during the visit,” a Turkish government statement said ahead of the meeting, adding that the two leaders would “exchange views on regional and global matters as well.”

Lavrov in Turkey. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is on the second day of a two-day trip to Ankara, where he has been discussing ways to unblock Ukraine’s grain exports. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said shipments could resume from the seized ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol, Ukraine, as long as Ukrainian forces dealt with mines along the approaches.


Keep an Eye On

North Korea tensions. Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea, has warned that Pyongyang could conduct a new nuclear test at “any time,” saying the North Koreans had “obviously done the preparations.” Speaking to reporters, Kim said the prospects for negotiations remained bleak and that Pyongyang has yet to respond to diplomatic overtures.

India-Iran ties. Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar hosts his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, today in New Delhi. The two men are expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan as well as increasing trade via Iran’s Chabahar port. It is Amir-Abdollahian’s first visit to the country since joining Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s government.


Odds and Ends

Australian customers at fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken will experience a bit more crunch after the restaurant was forced to introduce cabbage into its sandwiches due to a lettuce shortage.

The company blames the shortage on recent flooding in New South Wales and Queensland, which has led to some consumers paying more than 10 Australian dollars ($7) for a head of lettuce.

It’s not the biggest setback to befall KFC Australia in recent months, however. The chain began the year with shortages of its signature product: chicken.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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