CARTAGENA, Colombia (Reuters) - Cuba’s allies in Latin America declared on Saturday that they would stay away from future hemispheric summits if the communist island nation was not invited to attend.
Increasing calls to end the ostracism of Cuba was a source of division at this weekend’s sixth Summit of the Americas organized by the 34-nation Organization of American Sates (OAS) attended by President Barack Obama.
The United States and Canada oppose inviting Cuba to the summits which have a democratic clause excluding governments that are not democratically elected.
Cuba was kicked out of the OAS shortly after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, and efforts by Latin American allies to have it invited to Cartagena failed. Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa boycotted the summit over Cuba’s absence.
The left-leaning ALBA bloc of Latin American and Caribbean nations condemned the “unjustified and unsustainable exclusion of Cuba” in a statement issued in Cartagena.
“We have decided not to take part in future Summits of the Americas if Cuba is not present,” the ALBA statement said.
ALBA was set up in 2004 by Venezuela and Cuba to counter U.S. influence in Latin America and now includes Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and the Caribbean islands of Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The bloc is seen as a vehicle for Venezuela’s Socialist President Hugo Chavez to expand the influence of his oil-producing nation in the region.
Chavez skipped the Cartagena summit on doctors’ advice and returned to Cuba on Saturday to complete radiation treatment for a recurrent cancer that has cast doubts on his political future.
Reporting by Anthony Boadle in Caracas; Editing by Eric Walsh