HAVANA (AP) — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos flew to Cuba on Wednesday to meet with counterpart Raul Castro about an upcoming regional summit amid talk of a possible boycott that would be a challenge to U.S. foreign policy.
Santos said on arrival that the April 14-15 Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, will top the agenda for his discussions with Castro, but he did not answer questions about whether his country intends to invite Cuba.
“Our relations … are very good, but any relationship can be improved,” Santos said in brief comments at Havana’s international airport.
Members of the Venezuelan-led leftist Bolivarian Alliance, or ALBA, demanded last month that Cuba be included in the regional gathering, but stopped short of threatening a boycott while urging Colombia to extend an invitation. As host, Colombia gets the final decision.
Colombia is one of Washington’s staunchest allies in Latin America, but has also sought to maintain friendly ties to Cuba. Santos’s efforts to improve ties with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez have dramatically set him apart from his predecessor.
The Summit of the Americas is historically linked to the Organization of American States, and Cuba has not participated in the OAS since 1962. But Cuba has expressed a desire to attend the Cartagena summit.
U.S. officials say Cuba, ruled since 1959 by brothers Fidel and Raul Castro, does not meet OAS standards of democracy and thus has no business taking part.
“They don’t fit the definition of democratic countries and the development of democracy in the hemisphere,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “So at this point we see absolutely no basis and no intention to invite them to the summit.”
Geoff Thale, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, a U.S.-based think tank, said the fact that Santos is going out of his way to smooth over the flap, together with ALBA’s support for Cuba, shows that the region is increasingly willing to deviate from U.S. international policy.
“The widespread support in Latin America for Cuba’s participation in the Summit, and the willingness of many governments to push the issue, underscores the decline of U.S. influence in the region,” Thale said by email.
Santos also planned to meet with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who is being treated in Cuba for a relapse of cancer in the pelvic region. The two presidents were to have met March 1 about a commercial accord, but that was postponed by Chavez’s illness, Santos said.
ALBA is made up of Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela.
Associated Press writer Peter Orsi in Havana contributed to this report.
Andrea Rodriguez is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ARodriguezAP
Andrea Rodriguez is a San Francisco writer. More Andrea Rodriguez.
More Related Stories
- Okla. tornado survivor reunited with dog trapped in rubble live on camera
- Is Pope Francis an exorcist?
- Oklahoma tornado death count at least 91
- Frantic parents search for children in tornado's wake
- Crews dig through rubble after deadly tornado
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
- Record tornado devastates Oklahoma
- Limbaugh: No one willing to impeach the first black president
- Tornado reduces Oklahoma City suburb to rubble
- AP: Toll at least 37 dead in Okla. tornado
- Entire Midwest on tornado warning
- Oregon senator proposes appeal to Monsanto Protection Act
- Supreme Court to rule on prayer at government meetings
- Beltway scandal machine breaks, knows nothing about America
- Gitmo hunger striker launches Twitter campaign
- "Hero" cop, honored by Obama, accused of double rape
- Father of gay high school student arrested for dating classmate speaks out
- Pentagon adviser pushed Anthrax drug, which his firm produced
- Conservatives A-OK with closeted Boy Scouts
- The new geography of poverty
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11