The governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are likely to be excluded from the Ninth Summit of the Americas, which will be hosted by the United States in June, a senior US State Department official has said.
“They are unlikely to be there,” US Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols told a small group of reporters on Wednesday, saying the summit of regional leaders would focus on the Western Hemisphere’s democracies.
The comments marked the clearest message that those three governments, all on bad terms with Washington, will be snubbed once the White House releases the invitation list. That announcement would come soon, Nichols added.
His remarks come just days after Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez accused the Biden administration of pressuring regional governments to block Cuba from participating in the summit.
“We have learned from various sources that the United States government has been carrying out intense efforts and exerting pressure on countries in the region to try to exclude Cuba from the IX Summit of the Americas,” Rodriguez wrote on Twitter.
“There is no justification for excluding Cuba or any other country from this event that we have attended the last two editions,” he said.
The US and Cuba last week held their first high-level talks in four years, but tensions persist between the two nations over migration, ongoing American sanctions against the island and the Cuban government’s recent crackdown on opposition protesters.
On Wednesday, Nichols also said there was unlikely to be a role for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government at the summit but said it would be up to the White House to decide whether to invite Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido in his place.
The US and dozens of other countries have recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful leader and shunned Maduro after accusing him of rigging his 2018 re-election.
But last month, Maduro said he had agreed on an agenda for future talks with US officials after meeting a delegation from Washington in the first such discussions in years.
Meanwhile, relations between Washington and Managua have been especially tense in recent months after the US slammed Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s re-election last November as a “sham”.
Ortega has presided over a widespread and ongoing crackdown on political opponents and opposition figures ahead and after last year’s vote, prompting condemnation from US and European officials.
“It’s clear Nicaragua has ceased any semblance of democracy in the wake of the sham election,” Nichols said.
Migration is expected to be one of the main topics of discussion at the Ninth Summit of the Americas, as the Biden administration is seeking to boost regional cooperation to stop asylum seekers from arriving in large numbers at the US’s southern border with Mexico.
Those numbers are expected to soon increase next month as the US plans to end a contentious pandemic policy that had allowed authorities to rapidly expel most people who arrived at the border in search of protection.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden will speak with his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday to “discuss their vision for the Ninth Summit of the Americas and how North America can lead on priority initiatives for the region”, the White House said in a statement.
“They also plan to discuss cooperation on migration, joint development efforts in Central America, competitiveness and economic growth, security, energy, and economic cooperation.”