Miami Mayor Francis Suarez slated to speak at conference backed by Saudi regime

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is scheduled to speak Friday at a trade summit backed by Saudi Arabia’s ruling regime, an event currently under investigation for its role in rehabilitating the country’s bloody human rights reputation.

Suarez’s promotion of the 2023 edition of the Future Investment Initiative Priority summit, revealed in a recent Miami Herald investigation, raised questions about the mayor’s role in providing a public relations boost for a regime seeking to repair its public image after reports of public beheadings, alleged police torture and the gruesome murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The summit, a networking conference funded by the Saudis’ sovereign wealth fund, is one of several events under investigation by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs as part of an inquiry into the Saudis’ broader effort to repair the country’s reputation abroad. The man appointed by Saudi royal decree to run the conference series, public relations consultant Richard Attias, wrote Suarez a letter dated Feb. 16 inviting the mayor to the event.

Suarez is scheduled to speak at 1:20 p.m. Friday during a session titled “How Miami is Becoming the World’s Next Capital of Sports,” according to an invitation provided by the mayor’s office. The two-day summit begins Thursday at the Faena Hotel and Forum in Miami Beach.

In a statement, Suarez’s communications director, Stephanie Severino, said the mayor is “honored to participate” in the summit with speakers such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman.

“Mayor Suarez was invited to speak about how the city is becoming the world’s next capital of sports and about Miami’s continued success as an international business hub where new, positive developments such as the FIFA World Cup 2026 will be hosted,” Severino said.

The mayor’s office did not respond to the Herald’s questions about his views on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, whether he or his office coordinated to help plan the conference and whether he has been contacted by Senate investigators.

The Herald investigation published in December documented Suarez’s coordination with representatives of the Saudi regime to promote the 2023 edition of the summit in Miami Beach. Records show the mayor’s staff and associates were asked to help recruit VIP guests to the event.

Read more: The kingdom and I: How Miami’s mayor helped Saudi Arabia rehab its bloody reputation

The mayor’s activity raised questions about whether he should have registered as a foreign agent, as well as concerns over the blurring lines between his work as a private attorney and his job as Miami’s part-time mayor. The Herald’s reporting on Suarez’s cozy relationship with the Saudi regime prompted calls for his resignation from two former police chiefs and two sitting commissioners.

Suarez, who faces multiple state and federal investigations stemming from his outside employment and potential conflicts of interest, has denied wrongdoing regarding his involvement with Future Investment Initiative. He has said that none of his activity required registration as a foreign agent, and he’s maintained that he keeps his outside employment separate from his public responsibilities as mayor.