Venezuela crisis set to dominate Caribbean summit in Cuba

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 03, 2016 7:03 AM

HAVANA (Reuters) - Leaders of Caribbean countries are set to arrive in Cuba on Friday to attend a regional summit where Venezuela's embattled, socialist government will seek support as opposition at home and abroad intensifies.

The summit comes days after the head of the Organization of American States called an urgent meeting to discuss whether Venezuela was violating democratic norms, paving the way for a vote that could suspend it from the body.

A majority of the 25 states that are members of the Association of Caribbean States, or ACS, receive subsidized fuel from Venezuela under its Petrocaribe oil program that Caracas uses to wield influence in the region.

"Venezuela will denounce to the ACS the most recent aggression carried out by the general secretary of the OAS, Luis Almagro," Venezuela's ambassador to Cuba, Alí Rodríguez, was quoted as saying in local media.

Venezuela's government is facing an opposition push at home for a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro as well as a shift throughout Latin America away from leftist populism to more conservative policies.

Venezuela, Communist-ruled Cuba and other leftist allies like Bolivia have railed against "imperialist" efforts to regain control over the region.

Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama attended a Caribbean summit seeking to reassert U.S. leadership in the region, after launching an energy initiative seeking to wean it off cut-rate Venezuelan oil.

The official agenda of the seventh ACS summit includes discussions about trade, transport and sustainable tourism as well as strategies to combat climate change.

Seventeen countries have confirmed their heads of state will be attending, the ACS said.

Colombia on Thursday confirmed President Juan Manuel Santos would not be attending, dashing hopes he might announce a bilateral ceasefire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, this weekend.

His government has been in peace talks with the guerrilla group in Havana for the past three years.

The summit officially takes place on Saturday, while Cuba will host a dinner for the heads of state at the Palace of the Revolution on Friday, which is also President Raul Castro's 85th birthday.

(Reporting by Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta; Editing by Peter Cooney)