Representatives of the Biden administration are considering inviting a Cuban representative to the US summit in the United States, said a man familiar with the issue as Washington sought to end a potentially awkward boycott by some regional leaders.
Discussions have focused on allowing a Cuban presence at a summit in Los Angeles next month below the level of the country’s president or foreign minister, but this is at an early stage and a decision has not yet been made, a Reuters source said on Friday.
Aides to President Joe Biden weighed the idea when his administration began sending out summit invitations. But so far, US officials have refused to say which countries are on the list and whether the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua will be excluded.
An increasing number of leaders, including Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, are threatening to miss the summit if all countries in the region are not allowed to attend.
The prospect of failing to attend the summit threatens a diplomatic setback for Biden, whose aides hope the summit, which is held every three to four years, will be a chance to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to a region it often neglects.
It was unclear whether communist Cuba, which had participated at the level of heads of state in the last two summits in 2015 and 2018 and blamed Washington for organizing the June 6-10 meeting as an observer, would accept it. The Associated Press initially reported that the idea is being considered.
The White House and the Cuban embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We are still considering additional invitations, and we will share the final list of invitations as soon as all invitations are published,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.
The Biden administration has been signaling for weeks that it may expel the governments of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, saying they do not respect democracy.
But faced with a backlash from Latin America and the Caribbean, the White House did not send out invitations and refused to publish a list of participants.
A senior Cuban diplomat told Reuters that the United States was making a “desperate effort” to impose its will on the Western Hemisphere by determining which countries should be invited.
In a written statement, Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cassia said the decision was “a reflection of American contempt for our region.”
It was a rebuke in a comment Thursday from Kerry Hanan, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere, who accused Cuba of using the dispute at the summit to divert attention from allegations of human rights abuses at home.
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Last week, Lopez Obrador said he would not go unless Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were invited. His Bolivian counterpart, President Luis Arce, followed suit.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday that U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, Biden’s special envoy at the summit, held a “good exchange of views” with Lopez Obrador via Zoom this week, Sullivan said. But he did not provide details.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsanara is also likely to miss the meeting, sources told Reuters, without specifying the reasons.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Jamatei has said he will not come, a day after the United States criticized the re-appointment of the Attorney General, which is linked to corruption.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said on Wednesday that his government was “not interested” in participating.