A summit of hemispheric leaders is set for June in California but several Caribbean Community leaders say they may well not attend because Washington is determined to shut out Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from the conference.
Of the three, the bloc of 15 nations shares very close relations with Cuba and Venezuela, with Cuba for decades offering pro bono training to thousands of medical doctors and other professionals from the region and Venezuela more recently assisting in a number of areas including prefabricated housing and concessional oil prices among others.
As preparations heighten for the ninth such meeting of head of governments of countries in the Americas in Los Angeles, countries like Antigua, St. Vincent and others are beginning to give clear signals that they will not attend the summit not only because of the impending shut out of the three by the U.S. but also because the conference is a hemispheric one involving countries in the Americas rather than a meeting organized solely by the U.S. for the U.S.
“We do not believe in the policy of ostracizing Cuba and Venezuela. We do not recognize Juan Guaidó as the president of Venezuela,” said Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne, referring to the U.S.-backed opposition Guaido for president of Venezuela. “In those circumstances, Antigua and Barbuda will not participate despite this difference in opinion. We remain respectful of President Joe Biden and the U.S. administration,” he said.
Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols recently announced that the three would not make it to the summit because they “do not respect democracy.”
That statement prompted a quick reply from Antigua’s U.S. Ambassador Ron Sanders who argued that “the summit of the Americas is not a meeting of the United States, so it cannot decide who is invited and who is not. It is a summit of all the heads of state of the Western Hemisphere.”
The seven-nation Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet this week to discuss the issue and prepare to make a final determination though backroom lobbying from the U.S. has traditionally fractured such alliances and decisions.
Member states like Guyana, Jamaica and The Bahamas have in recent years shown their support for things American and could well ignore lobbying efforts from other states and head to Los Angeles regardless. Caribbean leaders had discussed the issue at their mid-year summit in Belize in March. It is unclear if any video conferencing meeting will be held before next month.
And speaking on a weekend radio program, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent said the U.S. should be discouraged from inviting the Venezuelan opposition politician to sit among elected leaders.
“If Guaidó goes to represent Venezuela, if the Americans were to do that—it would be an act of folly and I think it would be unlikely that Caribbean governments would go. I wouldn’t yet state the final position of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to go or not to go, but obviously my preference on that and our government and many other governments would be for President Miguel Díaz-Canel of Cuba be invited and President Maduro of Venezuela be invited,” Gonsalves said, elected five consecutive times as head of government of St. Vincent.
“Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future” for the hemisphere is the theme of the summit. Whether the planned regional boycott will hold is left to be seen, officials said this week