US will ‘absolutely not’ invite Venezuela’s Maduro to summit

WASHINGTON: The United States said Thursday (May 26) it would not invite representatives of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro or Nicaragua to next month’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, despite threats of a boycott led by Mexico. they and Cuba are excluded.

“Absolutely not. We don’t recognize them as a sovereign government,” Kevin O’Reilly, the summit’s coordinator, told a Senate committee when asked about the Maduro government’s participation.

Maduro, who presides over a crumbling economy and whose 2018 re-election was widely criticized by international observers, is seen as illegitimate by Washington, which recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.

On the participation in the summit of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, also accused of growing authoritarianism, O’Reilly also gave a definitive “no”.

He gave a less clear answer when asked if Cuban government officials would be attending, saying the White House was in charge but no invitations were sent “to my knowledge”.

President Joe Biden wants the June 6-10 Summit of the Americas to promote democracy in Latin America and strengthen cooperation on migration, a key political priority for the United States.

But Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist, has threatened to boycott the summit if the United States does not invite all the countries, although his foreign minister may still come.

After Lopez Obrador, leaders of Argentina, Bolivia, Honduras and the 14-nation Caribbean bloc also questioned their presence, while Chile joined calls for the widest possible participation. .

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican and outspoken critic of Latin American leftists, urged the Biden administration not to give in to Mexican demands to “invite this trio of tyranny.”

“I don’t think the United States of America should, frankly, be bullied or pressured into who to invite to a summit that we’re hosting,” Rubio said during the hearing.

If Lopez Obrador “doesn’t want to come, he doesn’t come,” Rubio said.

“If we have a summit where we don’t invite the dictators and the people who wanted the dictators to come decide to boycott it, then we will know just who our real friends are in the region,” he said.

Lopez Obrador, who recently visited Cuba, argued that Latin America is uniting like the European Union, which means all nations must be included in regional summits.

O’Reilly said the Biden administration was “constantly in dialogue” with Mexico as well as other countries on how to structure the summit.

The Biden administration also plans to invite civil society groups from across Latin America, including Cuba.

“We want to have broad participation from civil society, from all countries where authoritarians, where dictators, seek to stifle public debate,” O’Reilly said.

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