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US excludes Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua from Americas summit, risking boycott

Preparations continue as the United States prepares to host the Ninth Americas Summit in Los Angeles on June 5, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

The US has decided against inviting leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua to the regional Summit of the Americas, risking an embarrassing boycott of the Washington-hosted gathering by regional leaders.

The Biden administration announced the decision on Sunday after weeks of discussions with top officials from Latin America and the Caribbean, including Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has threatened to skip the summit unless all nations in the Western Hemisphere are represented, Bloomberg News reported citing “people familiar with the deliberations”.

The exclusion of Washington’s arch-foes in Latin America from this week’s gathering in Los Angeles follows weeks of intense debates, generating controversy over the guest list and clouding the purported US aim of using the summit to repair its Latin American ties -- damaged under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump – as well as reasserting American influence in the region and countering China, the report noted.

The exclusion of Venezuela and Nicaragua had already been flagged in recent weeks, but the final word on Cuba rested on whether to invite a lower-ranking representative in place of the country’s president, it added, citing unnamed US government officials.

This is while Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel insisted last month that he would not attend the summit even if invited, accusing Washington of “brutal pressure” to make the summit non-inclusive.

Havana had participated in the past two summits.

Mexican President Lopez Obrador said he was waiting for Biden to decide before announcing whether he would attend the summit.

Obrador could follow through on Monday morning when he speaks at a regular news conference.

Offering Cuba a limited role was seen as a way to placate Obrador but the idea was rejected, the report added, citing another unnamed source.

It further noted that “Cuban civil society activists” have been invited.

According to the report, although most leaders have signaled they will attend the confab on Wednesday, the pushback by leftist-led governments suggests many in Latin America are no longer willing to follow Washington's lead like in the past.

Having ruled out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s participation, the Biden administration is considering a role for Trump-sponsored opposition leader Juan Guaido, possibly virtually at a side event, a US official was as cited in the report.

Guaido was recognized by the Trump administration and allied European governments like Venezuela’s “legitimate president” after rejecting Maduro’s 2018 re-election.

The move was aimed at helping the US-backed opposition forces to overthrow the Maduro administration.

Also barred from the Los Angeles summit is Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega -- a former guerrilla leader who led a successful anti-US revolution in the impoverished country in 1979.

Ortega won a fourth consecutive term in office last November, much to the chagrin of Washington.

If Obrador decides to boycott the summit, it could raise questions about the prospects for progress in discussions on curbing migration at the US-Mexico border, a priority for the Biden administration.

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