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What outcomes can we expect from the Summit of Americas?


President Biden spoke up for democracy at the Summit of the Americas. The U.S. welcomed leaders from the Western Hemisphere to Los Angeles, but not all of them. Some were disinvited, and others boycotted. NPR's Carrie Kahn explains.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: President Biden and administration officials have been saying for weeks that they weren't going to allow, quote, "dictators" to come to this summit, which was going to be about democracy. That meant no Cuba, no Nicaragua, no Venezuela. And Mexico's president said he wasn't going to come unless everybody was invited. And so then a whole host of countries followed suit, which really upended the summit and created a lot of turmoil over who was going to come and who wasn't. And that came - lasted right up until the last minute. And that meant that President Biden spent yesterday shaking hands with a lot of foreign minister instead of presidents because a lot of them didn't come. And so yesterday, he really just tried to shift momentum and really wanted to put that controversy past him. In the opening ceremony last night, he tried to start talking about economic recovery from the pandemic, migration and especially democracy, which he told the crowd is the hallmark of the region.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: As we meet again today in a moment when democracy is under assault around the world, let us unite again and renew our conviction that democracy is not only the defining feature of American histories but the essential ingredient to America's futures.

KAHN: It was just a very Hollywood opening ceremony with a lot of performance and choreographed skits.

MARTIN: So you mentioned some of the leaders who didn't show. Who actually came?

KAHN: Well, it was pretty surprising because we didn't know if Brazil's populist conservative President Jair Bolsonaro was going to come, and he did. That was a last-minute score for President Biden. Bolsonaro was a big supporter of President Trump and was actually one of the last leaders in the world to congratulate Biden on his 2020 election win. And the two have actually never even spoken. They have agreed to meet at the summit. There was also talk of the White House inviting Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido. In the end, President Biden only spoke to him by phone late Wednesday, and he expressed U.S. support for restarting talks between the opposition and President Nicolas Maduro.

MARTIN: So obviously, immigration is a huge issue for the Biden administration in these conversations. Is the president making any specific asks of other countries at the summit?

KAHN: Friday, all the countries will sign what they're calling the Los Angeles Declaration on migration. In the end, the Biden administration says all nations in the hemisphere have to work together to deal with what is record migration in the Americas. It's no longer just the U.S. and a Mexico problem; we're seeing millions of Venezuelans migrating, Haitians, Cuban, Nicaraguans and, of course, Central Americans. But what we're seeing at the summit is that Central American leaders aren't here. Mexico's president isn't here. So many are saying, how can you tackle migration issues when those leaders aren't even at the table? And that's a big blow for Biden and Kamala Harris, who's been tasked to deal with Central American leaders. They didn't come to the summit. And the administration is going to announce new programs at the summit, but it's - clearly, it has a credibility problem in the regions when they couldn't bring these leaders to the summit.

MARTIN: NPR's Carrie Kahn. Thank you.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.