US congratulates SVG on Independence Anniversary
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves.
United Nations / Ryan Brown

Upset that Cuba, Venezuela and to a lesser extent Nicaragua might not be invited to next month’s Summit of Americas in California, Caribbean governments said this week they will collectively stay away from the conference if the United States insists that the three countries should not be allowed to attend and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guiado is permitted to sit with them at the table.

Regional leaders had discussed the issue at their mid-year summit in Belize in March and had planned to hold a single boycott position back then but it is now unclear if the planned boycott will hold.

Early indications are that Guyana will definitely break ranks with the rest of the region with Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud telling this publication late Monday that “Guyana is preparing to attend,” as clear indications begin to emerge of a fracture in the regional solidarity.

Still, many governments are arguing that the summit is not purely an American affair but rather a hemispheric venture involving all states in the western hemisphere so all should be eligible to attend. They are also upset with plans by Washington to invite Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, a move five times elected Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves describes as silly.

“If Guaidó goes to represent Venezuela, if the Americans were to do that it would be an act of folly,” Gonsalves told a weekend radio program, suggesting that with the current state of affairs, St. Vincent may not attend if the three are not invited and if President Nicolas Maduro does not make the cut. I could tell you if that happens, St. Vincent and the Grenadines definitely will be there at the summit, but if they are not invited, I am saying to you, you will have to revert to me at a later date when all the consultations are over,” Gonsalves said.

Ron Sanders, Antigua’s Ambassador to the US said at a recent forum that “the summit of the Americas is not a meeting of the United States, so it cannot decide who is invited and who is not.  It is a summit of all the heads of state of the Western Hemisphere, he said.

Meanwhile, Gaston Browne, Sanders’ prime minister argued that the region is supporting the attendance of Cuba and Venezuela, noting that “we do not believe in the policy of ostracizing Cuba and Venezuela. We do not recognize Juan Guaidó as the president of Venezuela. In those circumstances, Antigua and Barbuda will not participate despite this difference in opinion.”

But he also said that a consensus from the Belize summit “not to attend” was made “but I am not sure if the consensus will hold.”

Several CARICOM leaders are expected in bloc headquarters, Guyana next week for a regional food security forum. The issue will again be discussed officials said.

As the countdown to the ninth Summit of the Americas begins, Guyanese Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud said Tuesday “Guyana is preparing to attend,” in what is clearly an early indication of a split in the ranks of the 14 independent hemispheric countries. Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hugh Todd referred to the upcoming meeting of leaders as a guide.

President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told a public forum on a visit to Cuba Sunday, that “nobody should exclude anyone” as he pressed for all hemispheric countries to attend the summit.

CARICOM countries are particularly close to Cuba, with the communist island providing thousands of free scholarships to Caribbean medical, engineering and other students since the mid 70s. As for Venezuela, successive governments have assisted with prefabricated housing and concession oil arrangements.