Latest: U.S. to Exclude Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua from Americas Summit

Preparations continue as the United States prepares to host the Ninth Americas Summit in Los Angeles, U.S., June 5, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY, June 5 (Reuters) – The Biden administration has made a final decision to exclude the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the Summit of the Americas, on June 6, people familiar with the matter said. This despite threats from Mexico’s president to skip the gathering unless all countries in the Western Hemisphere were invited.

The decision, which followed weeks of intense deliberations, risks an embarrassing boycott of the U.S.-hosted gathering this week in Los Angeles if Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and some other leaders choose not to show up.

U.S. officials determined that concerns about human rights and lack of democracy in the three countries, Washington’s main antagonists in Latin America, weighed too heavily against inviting them, a Washington-based source said late on Sunday.

The exclusion of leftist-led Venezuela and Nicaragua had already been flagged in recent weeks.

But with President Joe Biden due to open the summit on Wednesday, final word on Communist-ruled Cuba rested on whether to invite a lower-ranking representative in place of the island’s president, U.S. officials said.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel said last month he would not go even if invited, accusing the U.S. of “brutal pressure” to make the summit non-inclusive. Cuba attended the past two summits.

The U.S. decision was first reported by Bloomberg News. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Mexico’s leftist president has said he was waiting for Biden to make a decision before announcing whether he would go. Lopez Obrador could follow through on Monday morning when he speaks at a regular news conference.

Offering Cuba a limited role was seen as a way to placate Lopez Obrador but the idea was rejected, one source said. Cuban civil society activists have been invited.

Controversy over the guest list has clouded the U.S. goal of using the summit to repair Latin America relations damaged under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, reassert U.S. influence and counter China.

Having ruled out Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the administration is considering a role for opposition leader Juan Guaido, possibly virtually at a side event, a U.S. official said.

Washington recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, having condemned Maduro’s 2018 re-election as a sham.

Also barred from the summit is Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former Marxist guerrilla who won a fourth consecutive term in November after jailing rivals.

If Lopez Obrador does not show up, it could raise questions about the prospects for progress in discussions on curbing migration at the U.S. southern border, a priority for Biden.

Most leaders have signaled they will attend, but the pushback by leftist-led governments suggests many in Latin American are no longer willing to follow Washington’s lead as at times in the past.

White House officials have insisted the invites ruckus will blow over and the summit be successful no matter who attends.

Reporting By Matt Spetalnick in Washington and Dave Graham in Mexico City; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Gerry Doyle
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