US President Joe Biden insisted Thursday there was unity at an Americas summit after the leaders of Argentina and Belize openly criticized him for excluding three leftist leaders.
“Notwithstanding some of the disagreements relating to participation, on the substantive matters, what I heard was almost unity and uniformity,” Biden said.
He said that he saw “almost total agreement” on issues such as managing migration and fighting climate change, and called for more discussion on specifics before the summit closes Friday.
Biden refused to invite the leftist leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, describing them as autocrats not welcome at a summit dedicated to democracy. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador then declined to come as a protest.
Argentina’s center-left president, Alberto Fernandez, who was persuaded to come after a call by Biden, nonetheless attacked the decision in front of the US leader at the summit in Los Angeles.
“Being the host country of the summit doesn’t grant the ability to impose a right of admission on member countries of the continent,” Fernandez said.
He later shook Biden’s hand before the US president, who was attending alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, returned to speak and address the criticism.
Biden also got an earful from the leader of one of the region’s smaller countries, Belize, who said it was “inexcusable” not to invite all countries.
Hailing Cuba’s export of state-employed doctors — a practice which US officials denounce as trafficking — Prime Minister John Briceno called US sanctions on the island a “crime against humanity.”