The President of Cuba announced on Wednesday that his country will not attend the Summit of the Americas, a major conference due to be held in Los Angeles next month after the US refused to issue a proper invitation.
The decision throws further confusion at the summit, which is crucial to the US’ ability to demonstrate its influence in the western hemisphere.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel said on Twitter that “under no circumstances” would he attend. His comments came after days of speculation and an attempt by the Biden administration to find a compromise that would relieve it of having to invite a “non-democratic” government – while avoiding the risk of angering much of Latin America.
When Brian Nichols, assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere, told the Times and other media outlets last month that the US would not invite Cuba, a backlash quickly erupted. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador threatened a boycott if the US government, which hosts the event, does not invite all countries in the hemisphere.
A US-hosted regional summit without Mexico’s participation would be seen as a major embarrassment for the Biden administration.
In addition to excluding Cuba, the government plans to remove Nicaragua and Venezuela from the guest list. All have authoritarian governments that Washington believes run counter to the democratic spirit the hemispheric conference is intended to foster.
After Mexico’s threat, a cascade of boycotts appeared to be in the offing. Several Caribbean countries declined to take part, although some have since pulled out – Guatemala said it was staying at home after the US criticized its handling of official corruption cases, and the right-wing president of Brazil, Latin America’s largest country, said he was it also would not participate. Jair Bolsonaro, a key ally of former President Trump, has been furious at criticism from the US and other Western nations of his handling of the Amazon devastation.
Held every three or four years, the Summit of the Americas opened in Miami in 1994, the last time the United States hosted it. Cuba was excluded or chose not to participate for much of the time until 2015, when Raul Castro met and shook hands with then-President Obama at the Panama Summit, paving the way for a historic thawing in relations between them from the time of the Cold War leveled Washington and Havana, which have since backed down under Trump and with Biden.
Díaz-Canel, the first non-Castro to lead the communist-ruled country in more than half a century, bemoaned the US position for not being “inclusive.”
“We share the position of the region’s leaders, who have firmly stated that all countries should be invited to the summit on an equal footing,” he said on Twitter.
“We appreciate the courageous and dignified stance of the countries that spoke out against exclusion,” he wrote.
One idea that US officials have floated, more in Washington than in Latin America, was to invite a lower-level Cuban official, possibly someone from the State Department, and possibly as an observer rather than a full participant. But Cuban sources told the Times such an arrangement would not be acceptable.
Neither the White House nor the State Department responded to a request for comment Wednesday night.
Courtney Subramanian, a Times contributor, contributed to this report.
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-05-25/cuba-says-it-wont-attend-summit-of-the-americas-in-l-a-after-biden-administration-snub Cuba says it won’t attend Summit of the Americas in L.A.