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Guatemalan leader will not attend Los Angeles summit after US criticism
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GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Tuesday he will not attend the Summit of the Americas next month in Los Angeles, following criticism from the Biden administration for reappointing an attorney general that the United States accuse of protecting the corrupt.

During an event at the Mexican Embassy, ​​Giammattei said a country’s sovereignty must be respected.

His announcement came after several other regional leaders raised the possibility of not attending the summit, which was supposed to be a key moment for the Biden administration’s diplomatic efforts in Latin America.

Late Monday, Giammattei nominated Consuelo Porras for a second four-year term as Guatemala’s attorney general. The U.S. government, the European Union and others had publicly criticized Porras’ performance, particularly the initiation of investigations against prosecutors and judges who had worked on anti-corruption cases.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced late Monday that the United States would bar Porras and his immediate family from entering the United States.

On Tuesday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said more action could be forthcoming.

“This is a step backwards for democracy, transparency and the rule of law in Guatemala, a step that will harm the people of Guatemala,” Price said. “She has a documented record of obstructing and undermining anti-corruption investigations in Guatemala to protect her allies.”

The announcement of his decision at the Mexican embassy in Guatemala does not seem to be a coincidence. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said last week that he would only attend the summit if the White House invited all leaders from the region, including those from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Bolivian President Luis Arce also said he would not go unless all countries were invited. And leaders of Caribbean nations have discussed a collective boycott of the summit if any nations are excluded.

US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols has previously said the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have shown they have no respect for democracy and are unlikely to receive invitations.

Argentina, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, issued an appeal this month to avoid excluding governments.

President Joe Biden said in March he hoped to sign “a regional declaration on migration and protection” at the summit. First Lady Jill Biden was scheduled to begin a trip to Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica on Wednesday to help lay the groundwork as the United States finalizes arrangements for the rally.

The dispute with Giammattei could make the US goal of a coordinated regional approach to controlling migration flows harder to achieve. Guatemalan authorities have aggressively dispersed migrant caravans trying to cross its territory in recent years.

Giammattei’s government had previously been warned that the Biden administration was concerned about corruption.

During her visit to Guatemala last June, Vice President Kamala Harris openly stated that corruption was one of the root causes of migration. The following month, after Porras fired Guatemala’s top anti-corruption prosecutor, the US government announced it was suspending cooperation with his office.

Tiziano Breda, Central America analyst at the Crisis Group, said Giammattei likely weighed the consequences of reappointing Porras and decided it would not go beyond individual declarations and sanctions.

“We’ll have to see if the United States reacts differently than they did,” Breda said. “Warnings from the United States will not stop the deterioration of the fight against corruption now that the cost of the fight is seen as bearable.”

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