US unlikely to invite Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela to summit

Apr 27, 2022, 2:12 AM | Updated: 2:16 pm

MIAMI (AP) — The Biden administration is unlikely to invite the leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba to the upcoming Summit of the Americas, a senior State Department official said Wednesday while sidestepping questions about an eventual role for Venezuela’s opposition leader at the gathering of hemispheric leaders.

The summit, to take place in Los Angeles in early June, will focus on defending democracy and human rights in the Western Hemisphere as well as addressing irregular migration, climate change and efforts to ensure equitable growth as the region emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols told reporters.

The top U.S. diplomat in the Western Hemisphere said invitations had yet to be sent but ventured that neither Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega or Cuba’s Miguel Diaz-Canel would make the cut and are considered by most of the countries in the region to be undemocratic.

“They are unlikely to be there,” he said.

When pressed, Nichols refused to say whether opposition leader Juan Guaidó — who the U.S. recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate leader in 2019 — would be asked to attend, saying only that a decision would be made “soon.”

“The White House will determine who is invited,” Nichols said.

The intrigue over Guaidó’s role comes as the Biden administration has made tentative steps to re-engage what Nichols called the Maduro “regime.” In March, three senior U.S. officials, including the National Security Council’s Juan Gonzalez, traveled secretly to Caracas to meet with Maduro. The visit was partly prompted by U.S. National Security concerns in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has renewed interest in Venezuela, a close Russian ally that sits atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves.

Maduro reciprocated by freeing two American prisoners and promising to resume negotiations with his opponents. However, amid a backlash of criticism from hardliner exiles and even some Democrats, the backchanneling has yet to produce any concrete results.

Nichols said that the U.S. remains committed to bringing Maduro back to the negotiating table with his opponents but didn’t comment when asked whether inviting Guaidó would advance or hinder that goal.

“The democratic situation in Venezuela is an issue that we’ll obviously talk about and address at the summit but I’d ask for your patience while we wait for the White House to take a decision on how that invitation will be managed,” he said.

The decision to exclude Cuba’s communist government would seem to dampen hopes for some sort of reconciliation following four years of escalating tensions with the Trump administration.

President Barack Obama invited Cuba’s Raul Castro to the summit in 2015 as part of a quiet, sustained effort to improve relations between the two Cold War adversaries and Cuba’s foreign minister attended the last gathering, in Peru, in 2018, which then President Donald Trump skipped.

The Biden administration has taken a similarly harsh stance against Ortega, whose re-election last year to a fourth term Nichols called a “sham” after numerous of his rivals were jailed.

The U.S. is hosting the Summit of the Americas first the first time since 1994, when President Bill Clinton hosted regional leaders in Miami to push for a free trade agreement stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego.

But with that ambitious goal abandoned long ago amid a rise in leftist, anti-American politics in several parts of the region, many experts have questioned the need for an expensive gathering of more than 30 heads of state each pushing their own bilateral agenda with Washington but often cooperating little amongst themselves.

The region in recent years has diversified its trade and diplomatic ties and the U.S. has largely stood by as Russia, China, Iran and other foreign powers hostile to the U.S. have gained influence.

Nichols praised the region for mostly joining the U.S. in condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But he said massive supply chain disruptions triggered by the conflict had stirred concerns in the region about the future of energy and food supplies.

“How do we address that to make sure that the people of our hemisphere can afford the food that they need to put on their table every night?” Nichols said. “These are crucial issues and that’s why our leaders are coming together.”

Follow Goodman on Twitter: @APJoshGoodman

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Associated Press

Young humpback whale leaps out of Seattle bay, dazzling onlookers

A humpback whale visiting the waters off Seattle dazzled onlookers Thursday morning with several breaches in the bay just beyond the city’s downtown area.

21 hours ago

FILE - Oregon State's Ryan Cooper Jr. (23) attempts to strip the ball from Washington State's De'Zh...

Associated Press

Oregon State, Washington State, Mountain West agree to 6-game football scheduling arrangement

Oregon State, Washington State and the Mountain West announced a football scheduling agreement Friday for the 2024 season that gives the two Pac-12 schools six opponents each and keeps open the possibility that they will operate as a two-team conference for at least a year.

22 hours ago

FILE - Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., watches as Republicans try to elect Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., to...

Associated Press

US House expels New York Rep. George Santos

Rep. George Santos of New York uis facing a critical vote to expel him from the House on Friday as lawmakers weigh whether his actions, fabrications and alleged lawbreaking warrant the chamber's most severe punishment.

1 day ago

FILE - Flags fly in front of the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, Ore., on May 24, 2013. Oregon Stat...

Associated Press

City Council in Portland approves $2.6M for police body cameras

The City Council in Portland, Oregon, approved $2.6 million for permanent police body cameras in a unanimous vote, a crucial step toward the city no longer being among the last major U.S. police agencies without the technology.

1 day ago

WA ferries summer reservations...

Associated Press

Ferry operators around the country to receive $200M in federal grants to modernize fleets

The Biden administration will issue $200 million in grants to modernize the country's ferry systems, officials announced Thursday.

2 days ago

CAPTION CORRECTION CORRECTS LOCATION: An elderly person is helped in a mini-bus transporting Israel...

Associated Press

Last planned release of hostages begins, as mediators aim to extend Israel-Hamas truce

International mediators on Wednesday worked to extend the truce in Gaza, encouraging Hamas militants to keep freeing hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners and further relief from Israel’s air and ground offensive. The cease-fire will otherwise end within a day.

3 days ago

US unlikely to invite Cuba, Nicaragua or Venezuela to summit