The U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas got off to a rough start here on Monday following Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's official boycott of the regional gathering over a guest list that excludes Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
"It's time to change the dominant political practice," Lopez Obrador told a daily press conference on Monday, confirming his absence from the summit due to Washington's exclusion of these countries.
"So is it going to be the Summit of the Americas, or is it going to be the Summit of the 'Friends of America'?" he questioned.
In a column article in Mexican daily Excelsior, Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard, denounced Washington's exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the regional summit as an exposure of U.S. double standards on democracy.
For good measure, taking advantage of its role as summit host to bar these countries from the gathering is "questionable from a Pan-American legality issue," Ebrard said.
At a press conference prior to his departure for Los Angeles to participate in the June 6-10 summit, Ebrard, who represented Mexico at the summit instead, said that Mexico will press for an end to the "inhumane" decades-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba during the summit.
Lopez Obrador's brush-off of the summit rendered futile months of work by Washington to convince him to attend. Besides Mexico, the restricted guest list has also prompted pleas from Guatemala, Honduras, Argentina, Bolivia, El Salvador and some Caribbean countries to either boycott or dispatch lower-level delegations, following Obrador's lead.
These came as an embarrassment to the White House, which dismissed last week questions from the press as to why it had yet to publish a list of summit attendees with just hours to go before the summit. Experts believed that Mexico's act alone would discourage Washington from fulfilling its stated objectives, including immigration, on which any action would require Mexico's cooperation.
In response to Washington's divisive moves, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has expressed his government's "firm, strong and total rejection of the imperialist vision that intends to exclude the peoples of the Americas" from a regional gathering.
In a statement issued Monday, the Cuban government said that there is no single reason to justify the U.S. government's "undemocratic and arbitrary exclusion" of any country of the hemisphere from the 9th Summit of the Americas.
Washington, abusing its privilege of being the host country, decided at a very early stage to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the summit, and used pressure, threats and blackmail against governments in the region, it said.
"Cuba appreciates and respects the worthy, courageous and legitimate position of numerous governments in defense of the participation of all, under equal conditions," said the statement.
"Our region demands cooperation, not exclusion; solidarity, not meanness; respect, not arrogance; sovereignty and self-determination, not subordination," it added.
Meanwhile, having tested positive for COVID-19, Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou on Monday officially canceled his trip to the ninth Summit of the Americas.