(CNSNews.com) – A month away from the United States’ hosting of the Summit of the Americas, Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador on Sunday stated that all countries in the hemisphere must be invited, putting pressure on the Biden administration, which wants to exclude authoritarian regimes.
Administration officials have indicated that Cuba, Nicaragua, and the Maduro regime in Venezuela – which the U.S. does not recognize – will not be invited to the June 6-10 event in Los Angeles, which has democracy as one of its key themes.
A formal decision has yet to be announced, however.
López Obrador made the comments during a visit to Cuba, where President Miguel Diaz-Canel awarded him the communist regime’s highest decoration, the Order of José Martí.
“I will insist with [President] Biden that no country in the Americas be excluded at next month’s summit in Los Angeles,” the Mexican newspaper El Financiero quoted López Obrador as saying during his acceptance speech.
He said it was up to the government of every country to decide “freely” whether or not to attend the meeting.
López Obrador, a leftist former mayor of Mexico City who was elected president in 2018, reportedly brought up the summit invitation issue during a phone conversation with Biden on April 29.
A White House readout at the time said the two had “discussed their visions for the Summit of the Americas,” but did not mention the question of invitations or participation.
The Mexico City daily El Universal reported, however, that during the conversation, “López Obrador insisted on the idea of not excluding those three countries.”
It said Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard also brought up the matter during a visit last Tuesday to Washington, where he met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
El Universal quoted Ebrard as saying after returning home that if Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua were not invited, the event should be billed as a “working meeting” rather than as the Summit of the Americas – which he said implies that “it involves all the countries of the Americas.”
Addressing a Conference on the Americans luncheon at the State Department on the same day as his meeting with Ebrard, Blinken devoted some of his remarks to the three countries concerned, but without mentioning the issue of their participation in the summit.
“In Cuba, Venezuela, more recently Nicaragua, repressive governments offer a false choice between respecting people’s rights and improving their welfare,” he said. “But the decades since that first Summit of the Americas [in 1994] have demonstrated that non-democratic governments in the Americas have delivered neither – and instead produced rising corruption and declining standards of living.”
As recently as Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said she did not believe “a final determination has been made” on summit invitations to the three governments.
But in an interview two days earlier with a Colombian television news channel, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Brian Nichols said he did not expect them to attend.
“It’s the president’s decision, but I think the president has been very clear about the presence of countries that by their actions do not respect democracy – they will not receive invitations,” Nichols said.
Next month’s event is the ninth Summit of the Americas, and the first to be hosted by the United States since the inaugural one, in Miami in 1994.
All members of the Organization of American States (OAS) have attended past summits. Cuba, which was expelled from the OAS in 1962, did not attend the first six, but then-President Raul Castro did participate in the 7th summit, in Panama in 2015, meeting with President Obama on the sidelines. Cuba sent its foreign minister to the 8th and most recent summit, in Peru in 2018.
The Maduro regime said it was withdrawing from the OAS in 2017, and last November President Daniel Ortega’s socialist government in Nicaragua began the process of withdrawing from the organization, declaring the move completed last month.
When a senior administration official last January first briefed media on the summit, “making democracy deliver in the Americas” was listed as one of four key themes for the event.
Asked during that background briefing about Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, the official said formal announcements would come later, but added that “the operating assumption is that we look forward to welcoming the democratically-elected leaders of the Organization of American States to the summit.”
Obama’s 2014 policy shift embracing engagement with Cuba was partially reversed by the Trump administration. Biden pledged to restore the Obama-era policies but following rare street protests in Cuba last summer he imposed new sanctions.
The U.S., along with more than 50 other governments, has not recognized Nicolas Maduro as president of Venezuela since accusing him of electoral fraud in 2019.
It views the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as interim president in line with country’s constitution – a position reaffirmed by Blinken in a May 2 phone call.
When Nicaragua’s Ortega won a fourth term last November, Biden in a strong worded statement called the election “rigged” and a “sham.”
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