U.S. President Joe Biden laid out his pitch to leaders from the Americas for a new economic partnership at the start of a regional summit on Thursday, even as he faced open rebuke over the exclusion of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, APA reports citing Reuters.
Speaking at the opening session of the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, Biden said his administration was committed to helping Latin America and the Caribbean recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, tackle irregular migration and improve living standards.
But he quickly faced sharp pushback over his decision to cut out Washington's three main regional antagonists, which spurred a boycott by some leaders led by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, dealing a blow to Biden's effort to reassert U.S. leadership.
Shortly after Biden's speech that extolled the virtues of democracy in the region, Belize's Prime Minister John Briceno, criticized the exclusion of Communist-ruled Cuba and leftist Venezuela, calling the "illegal blockade against Cuba" an "affront to humanity."
"In fact, it is un-American. The time has come, Mr. President, to lift the blockade," Briceno said, confronting Biden as he sat only a few feet away from him.
Briceno was followed by Argentina's left-leaning president, Alberto Fernandez, who declared "the silence of those who are absent is calling to us" and insisted that the host country did not have the power to impose "right of admission" to the conference.