The unexpected last-minute appearance in Mexico City of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro at a regional summit triggered a clash with leaders allied to the U.S. and revived the ideological split between governments in Latin America.
Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benitez opened his speech at the meeting of the Community of Latin American and the Caribbean States, or CELAC, by reiterating that he doesn’t regard the Venezuelan leader’s rule as legitimate.
“My presence at this summit in no way represents an acknowledgment of the government of Nicolas Maduro,” Benitez said. “There is no change in my government’s stance and I believe that the gentlemanly thing to do is to tell you that to your face.”
Benitez and several other U.S.-allied regional governments don’t recognize the Venezuelan government as legitimate due to irregularities surrounding Maduro’s re-election in 2018. Uruguay’s leader Luis Lacalle slammed the lack of democracy in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
Maduro responded by challenging Benitez and Lacalle to a debate on democracy, in Paraguay, Venezuela or elsewhere in the region. This was Maduro’s first trip abroad since the U.S. indicted him on drug trafficking charges last year, and offered a $15 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
While the meeting was ongoing, Colombia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry published a statement attacking Maduro’s lack of “democratic principles”.
Mexican leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who hosted the meeting, said CELAC could become the main instrument for bringing the nations of the region together. Through it, governments of the region can build “something resembling the economic community that was the origin of the current European Union,” Lopez Obrador said.
Lopez Obrador and other leftist leaders see CELAC as an alternative to the Washington-based Organization of American States, which excludes Cuba. But his vision was undermined by the absence of key players, particularly the government of Brazil, the region’s most powerful country, which suspended its participation in CELAC meetings last year.
Source: El Financiero