Posted: Friday, June 10, 2022. 11:10 am CST.
Written with contributions from Aaron Humes and Zoila Palma: Prime Minister of Belize John Briceño is attending the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, titularly as incumbent chairman of the conference of CARICOM [Caribbean Community] Heads of Government.
But among his fellow Central American leaders, he stands alone: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador sent their Ministers of Foreign Affairs rather than their heads of state or government in a direct rebuke to United States President Joe Biden for allowing the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua to be excluded.
Cuba had attended the last two Summits of the Americas, but while the U.S. recently rolled back some sanctions on the island nation, it continues to cite alleged human rights violations for maintaining the more than half-century-long economic blockade.
Venezuela and Nicaragua’s respective leaders, Nicolas Maduro and Daniel Ortega, are both facing internal turmoil, in the former’s case directly supported by the U.S.
In the Caribbean, a sympathizer with the socialist states, St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, is absent, but most other Caribbean states are represented.
In what the New York Times called a ‘remarkable speech’, Prime Minister Briceño asserted that the exclusions give the lie to the belief that the Summit belongs to all the Americas.
“It is incomprehensible that we isolate countries of the Americas that have provided strong leadership and have contributed in the hemisphere on critical issues of our times,” he asserted.
In addition, Briceño said that Cuba has provided constant cooperation in health to two-thirds of the countries in this hemisphere, including Belize. “The illegal blockade against Cuba is an affront against humanity. The time has come, Mr. President, to lift the blockade,” he further stated.
With regards to Venezuela, Briceño said that the country “has done much for energy security in the Caribbean region,” and its absence from the summit is “unforgivable.”
“The Summit of the Americas should have been inclusive. Geography and not politics define the Americas,” he added.
Briceño urged a commitment to “build the Americas with social justice” and said that “a turning point” had been reached on many issues.
According to the Times, there was also condemnation from Argentina President Alberto Fernandez, who called for a change in the rules in allowing the host to select who would be present. He stated, “We definitely would wish for a different Summit of the Americas… the silence of those who are absent is calling to us.”
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