President Alberto Fernández will travel to Los Angeles for the upcoming Summit of the Americas and has secured a much-anticipated meeting with US President Joe Biden in Washington in July.
After weeks of back-and-forth and internal debate over whether to attend next week’s high-profile event in the United States, the Peronist leader will represent his country at the June 6-10 summit, while also acting as a representative of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Argentina currently holds the pro-tempore presidency of the bloc.
In exchange for his attendance, Fernández has been rewarded with a face-to-face meeting with Biden in Washington next month – a long-held desire of the Frente de Todos leader. That visit is tentatively scheduled for July 25.
The president is expected to be in Los Angeles on June 9 and 10 for the event’s final days.
In recent weeks, Fernández has kept the US government in suspense over his attendance, hinting at various times that he would or would not attend.
The president has previously expressed his rejection of the decision not to invite the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Washington has sought to exclude those three nations from the summit given its concerns over the state of democracy in the troubled nations and the authoritarian nature of their governments.
As recently as a month ago, Argentina’s president had called on the summit’s organisers to “avoid exclusions that prevent all voices of the hemisphere from dialoguing and being heard.”
However, on Wednesday night, Fernández finally overcame his reservations and sent a letter to the event’s organising committee confirming his attendance.
Within hours, Biden had called him personally to discuss the event and various other issues. Before finishing the call, the Democratic leader also invited Argentina’s head of state to visit Washington in late July “in order to deepen the bilateral relationship.”
The two leaders have only met in-person once previously, briefly on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Rome last October 30.
"The dialogue [between them] contributed to highlighting the potential of bilateral ties, and to establishing a roadmap that, within the framework of Latin America and the Caribbean, allows for the deployment of opportunities for comprehensive, sustainable and inclusive human development," Argentina’s Presidency said in a statement.
Sources close to the Presidency said that Fernández had quoted Pope Francis while talking to his Catholic US counterpart, saying that "wheat cannot be used as a weapon of war."
In its own read-out of the call, the White House said that the duo had discussed “active US-Argentina engagement on bilateral, regional, and global issues, specifically human rights, food insecurity, climate change and energy, technological innovation, and critical supply chains.”
Biden also congratulated Fernández on the recent birth of his second son, Francisco.
Making a decision
Fernández eventually decided to attend the summit after holding talks with various leaders across the region, among them Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Chile’s Gabriel Boric and Bolivia’s Luis Arce, according to local press reports.
According to the Télam state news agency, López Obrador asked Fernández to represent CELAC at the summit and speak out against the decision to exclude some nations. Boric reportedly said he would attend if Argentina’s leader also travelled.
Opposition leaders this week criticised President Fernández’s indecision, accusing him of cosying up to Cuba and Venezuela.
"Alberto Fernández's doubts about participating in the Summit of the Americas reflect internal contradictions," said Buenos Aires City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, a likely presidential candidate in next year’s presidential election. "Exactly the opposite is needed.”
Speaking at a press conference, the Juntos por el Cambio leader said the government’s position lacked coherence.
"Foreign policy must be secure, we must link up with the democratic world, there can be no alliance with Cuba and Venezuela," he declared.