A top Democratic senator on Thursday accused Mexico’s president of trying to “blackmail” President Joe Biden into inviting several autocratic countries to the Ninth Summit of the Americas.
Sen. Bob Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of siding with “dictators and despots” after he decided to skip the summit because Biden refused to invite Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.
“I think that President López Obrador basically tried to blackmail President Biden into insisting that countries that are not democratic – countries like Venezuela, Cuba, Daniel Ortegas’ Nicaragua, that are dictators and despots – should have been invited to the summit,” Menendez, D-N.J., said during an interview on MSNBC Thursday.
Biden refused to include the three countries because “we do not believe that dictators should be invited,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday. The summit is currently underway in Los Angeles, California.
As a result, several leaders in the region, including López Obrador, decided to boycott the high-level gathering.
During a press conference Wednesday, López Obrador criticized Menendez, as well as Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, for U.S. policies on Cuba. All three senators are of Cuban descent and support a hardline U.S. policy toward the Communist island, where political dissent is not tolerated.
López Obrador, who mentioned Menendez by name, accused the senators of having resentment and “hatred” towards Cuba.
His remarks and Menendez’s retort made for an unusually bitter exchange between a foreign leader and a U.S. senator, at a time when U.S.-Mexico relations are under strain.
Rubio, R-Fla., also took a jab at the Mexican president on Twitter this week, calling him “an apologist for a tyranny in Cuba, a murderous dictator in Nicaragua and a narco-trafficker in Venezuela.”