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LATIN AMERICA | 21-01-2022 19:37

US to use Summit of the Americas to press nations on democracy

Los Angeles to host event in June; Washington considers linking attendance to democratic standards.

The United States will assess the "commitment to democracy" of the region's leaders in order to decide who will be invited to the Ninth Summit of the Americas, to be held in Los Angeles on June 6 to 10.

Assistant US Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols said Thursday that the White House will issue invitations for event in the coming weeks, and among the issues it will weigh "will be the commitment to democracy" of each leader.

"Democracy is a key priority for us in relation to the summit and, more broadly, in the administration's foreign policy. And that will be a key factor in who is invited and who is not," he said during a press teleconference.

Nichols declined to say whether the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which the US considers authoritarian regimes, would be invited. 

He also declined to say whether the presidents of the Central American Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, who were left out of Biden's December Democracy Summit, would be called this time.

However, another senior Biden administration official said there is "no doubt" that the presidents of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, and Guatemala, Alejandro Giammattei, will be summoned to Los Angeles.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the US plans to consult with countries in the region to decide on the guest list.

"The operating assumption is that we expect to host the democratically elected leaders of the Organisation of American States at the summit," the official said in a separate conversation with reporters on Thursday.

The OAS is made up of all 35 countries in the hemisphere, although Cuba is not an active member and Venezuela is represented by a delegate of opposition figure Juan Guaidó, recognised as interim president by around 50 countries that do not recognise Nicolás Maduro's legitimacy as head of state.

Nichols also did not confirm whether Guaidó, who was invited to the Democracy Summit, will again represent Venezuela at the June meeting. 

Last month, eight American countries were not invited to the Democracy Summit hosted by Biden in virtual format: Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

The Summit of the Americas, whose inaugural meeting was initiated by the United States in 1994, is the "only" hemispheric forum that brings together the leaders of the countries of North, South and Central America and the Caribbean.

"It is President Biden's top priority event for the region," he stressed.

And he emphasised that, for the United States, it does not matter where a country is on the political spectrum, as long as its leaders have been democratically elected and govern democratically "to build a better future" for their people. 

The Ninth Summit of the Americas, convened under the theme "Building a Sustainable, Resilient and Equitable Future" is committed to making Biden’s Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative “a reality." 

The US president is promoting the project in developing nations as an alternative to China's "New Silk Road", which the Asian giant set out in 2013 to gain global clout in low- and middle-income countries.

"We are not asking countries in the region to choose between the US and China," said Nichols.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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