Saturday September 22nd, 2018 3:39PM

Cuba's Castro joins Trump in skipping Americas Summit

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Cuban President Raul Castro joined a steadily growing list of leaders who have followed U.S. President Donald Trump in choosing to send a surrogate to what is shaping up into a decidedly low-key Summit of the Americas.

The gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders kicked off Friday in Peru without the presence of at least five presidents besides Trump — and the list of canceled RSVPs could grow.

Castro had never officially confirmed his attendance but he was widely expected to show up to bid farewell to regional allies as he prepares to step down from the Cuban presidency in a week's time. Instead he sent his Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez to lead the Cuban delegation.

Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega was also widely expected to snub the event in solidarity with fellow leftist Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, who had his invitation withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Paraguay all announced they will be staying home, saying they need to attend to pressing domestic matters and will send alternates instead. Ecuador's president showed up but then quickly returned home after three journalists kidnapped by holdout Colombian rebels were killed.

Analysts said the shrinking list of presidential attendees could be indicative of declining U.S. influence in the hemisphere. Trump is the first U.S. president to ditch the event, which was started by President Bill Clinton in 1994 as a way to assert American trade influence in the region. Trump canceled in order to manage the U.S. response to an apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria.

"It appears that in most of these situations, there are specific and unique reasons for heads of state not to attend," said Matt Clausen, who is in Lima as head of the Washington Office on Latin America. "What has changed since President Trump pulled out is the calculus about the overall importance of the summit."

And it isn't just a rising roster of no-shows that make this year's summit of dubious importance: Presidents from three of Latin America's most populous nations who are attending are all slated to leave office within the next 12 months.

The summit was initially started to promote democracy and free trade in the Americas, but in recent years both topics have become testy subjects. Instead the summit has become a stage for awkward encounters between leftist leaders and their northern counterparts.

Protesters led by soccer legend Diego Maradona burned an effigy of President George W. Bush to protest the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq at the 2005 summit in Argentina. Four years later, the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez famously gave then President Barack Obama a copy of a classic leftist book, "The Open Veins of Latin America," detailing the history of U.S. military interventions in the region.

Another key summit moment came in 2015 when Obama and Castro shook hands while in Panama City four months after the U.S. announced it would renew diplomatic relations with the communist island.

Things have changed dramatically since that handshake.

The Trump administration has rolled back many of Obama's overtures to open travel and commerce with the island and withdrawn most of its diplomats in Cuba over mysterious "sonic attacks" in Havana. Many feared that if Trump had showed up at this year's summit, his harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric and threats to pull out of regional trade deals would have generated tense encounters.

Vice President Mike Pence is expected to use the trip to promote trade and urge regional partners to further isolate Venezuela's government. The region has been grappling with how to respond to Maduro's increasingly autocratic rule, along with a crippling economic crisis and an exploding tide of migration.

Maduro was barred from this year's meeting over his plans to hold a presidential election that most of the opposition is boycotting and that many foreign governments are decrying as a sham. The Venezuelan president said Trump's cancellation was another sign the U.S. still views Latin America as Washington's backyard.

Several of Venezuela's most prominent opposition leaders are gathered in Lima, hoping to help build a forceful region-wide response.

Just before the summit was set to get underway Friday, Trump signaled that he might reopen talks on a Pacific Rim trade deal that he pulled the U.S. out of after taking office.

Without mentioning Trump's policy reversal on the Trans Pacific-Partnership, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau celebrated that several countries in the hemisphere including host Peru — one of the most-open economies in Latin America — have embraced his government's vision of beneficial free trade agreements.

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto also urged the Trump administration to join the accord.

"There's a door open for the U.S. to rethink and eventually reconsider its position," he told a group of business leaders.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2018
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
APNewsBreak: Chile victims meet pope April 28-29 at Vatican
APNewsBreak: The three main protagonists in denouncing Chile's sex abuse scandal will meet with Pope Francis over the weekend of April 28-29 and will stay at the Vatican hotel where he lives as his guests
6:13PM ( 1 minute ago )
A somber close to the bridal fashion career of Amsale Aberra
A somber close to the career of bridal designer Amsale Aberra with the showing of her last collection
6:09PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Cuba's Castro joins Trump in skipping Americas Summit
A steadily growing list of leaders are following U.S. President Donald Trump in choosing to send an alternate to the Summit of the Americas
5:59PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump pardons Scooter Libby, says he was 'treated unfairly'
President Donald Trump pardons I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney
5:40PM ( 34 minutes ago )
911: Man kills daughter who was also his wife after breakup
Authorities say a man killed his wife _ who was also his daughter _ and their 7-month-old son and then took his own life after she broke up with him; her adoptive father also was killed
5:40PM ( 34 minutes ago )
The Latest: Cosby lawyers ask accuser about pyramid scheme
Bill Cosby's lawyers are trying to undermine his chief accuser's credibility by questioning why she promoted an alleged pyramid scheme
5:28PM ( 46 minutes ago )
AP National News
Trump vows to back law to protect marijuana industry
A Republican senator says President Trump has promised to support legislation protecting the marijuana industry in states that have legalized the drug
4:38PM ( 1 hour ago )
Will Democrats find a presidential hopeful at city hall?
Democrats searching for potential presidential candidates may find some in an unlikely place: city hall
4:27PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Cosby lawyers try to discredit accuser's story
The defense in Bill Cosby's sex-crimes trial is trying to poke holes in his chief accuser's story
4:13PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online National News
The Latest: Pence arrives in Peru for Latin American summit
Vice President Mike Pence has arrived in Peru for a Latin American summit at which he's expected to push a tough line on Venezuela and point to the U.S. as an ideal trading partner in the region
4:10PM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Russia says no evidence of gas attack in Douma
Russia's military says its personnel in a Syrian city allegedly hit by a chemical weapons attack have not found evidence to support the claim
3:44PM ( 2 hours ago )
Ecuador's president confirms journalists killed along border
Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno has confirmed that three press workers kidnapped along the border with Colombia have been killed, opening the door to a military strike against their captors
3:30PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP World News
3 US banks post higher profits with huge assist from tax law
JPMorgan Chase records its highest quarterly profit in its history, and Citigroup and Wells Fargo also benefit from lower corporate tax rates.
5:24PM ( 50 minutes ago )
Cowboys release Dez Bryant, look to catch salary-cap relief
Cowboys look to catch salary-cap relief and release star receiver Dez Bryant
5:10PM ( 1 hour ago )
Teacher victory: Kentucky House overrides tax increase veto
The Republican-controlled Kentucky House of Representatives rejected the governor's vetoes and restored record-high increases in educating funding, giving thousands of teachers who rallied for the money a key victory
4:25PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Falling banks hold back S&P 500 as earnings season launches
A sharp drop for bank stocks pulled the S&P 500 lower Friday as a highly anticipated earnings reporting season got underway
2:32PM ( 3 hours ago )
French riot police oust Sorbonne protesters; trains halt
Paris riot police have cleared out students seeking to occupy the Sorbonne university in Paris
1:37PM ( 4 hours ago )
JPMorgan posts record profit, but credit quality a concern
JPMorgan Chase & Co. records its highest quarterly profit in its history, as the company benefits greatly from the new tax law passed late last year.
11:34AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
A somber close to the bridal fashion career of Amsale Aberra
A somber close to the career of bridal designer Amsale Aberra with the showing of her last collection
6:09PM ( 5 minutes ago )
Down 0-1, Avalanche need to slow down Preds' Filip Forsberg
The Colorado Avalanche are down 0-1 in their first-round playoff series against Nashville
5:57PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Busch brothers will start on the front row at Bristol
NASCAR points leader Kyle Busch edged older brother Kurt Busch by 0.002 seconds to take the pole for the Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway
5:55PM ( 18 minutes ago )
Cosby accuser's account remains consistent through 2 trials
For the second time in less than a year, Bill Cosby's chief accuser has taken the witness stand and told a jury that he tricked her into taking a powerful drug and then humiliated her for his own sexual gratification
5:52PM ( 22 minutes ago )
The Latest: US to give Venezuelans $16M in humanitarian aid
Vice President Mike Pence says the U.S. will provide nearly $16 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuelans who have fled their country during the political crisis under President Nicolas Maduro
5:43PM ( 30 minutes ago )