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U.S. says Guaidó is still Venezuela's president — but isn't invited to the Americas summit

JuanGuaidoAP2022.jpeg
Ariana Cubillos
/
AP
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó

Venezuela's opposition leader — recognized by the the U.S. and much of the world as the country's leader — will only attend the Summit of the Americas virtually.

President Biden did not invite Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro to the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week — but the man the U.S. does recognize as Venezuela’s president isn’t there either.

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Aides to President Biden said Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó will only attend this week’s Summit of the Americas virtually. This is despite the fact that the U.S. and almost 60 other countries consider Guaidó Venezuela’s constitutionally legitimate president.

Last week, Guaidó’s ambassador to the U.S., Carlos Vecchio, told WLRN they were hopeful Guaidó would be invited to attend in person. Vecchio said that would send a stronger message to Venezuela’s authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro that he has to make concessions to restore democracy there.

"We've been working for quite a while with the [Biden] administration on Venezuela's role in the summit," Vecchio said, "so we'd like to have a seat there with the other legitimate heads of state."

Many may consider Guaidó's non-invitation a blow to his political stature, particularly since there is a divide these days within Venezuela's opposition over how to confront the dictatorial Maduro regime.

While the Biden administration insists this week that it still recognizes Guaidó as Venezuela's true head of state — as aides say Biden himself told Guaidó on a phone call from Air Force One while flying to the summit — it has recently sent signals that it’s willing to negotiate with Maduro to loosen tough U.S. oil sanctions on his regime — perhaps to help ease the energy price crisis brought on by the war in Ukraine.

At the same time, some Caribbean heads of state reportedly told the administration they would boycott the L.A. summit if Guaidó were invited but Maduro was not. Many Caribbean nations, despite the fact that U.N. investigators have accused Maduro's socialist regime of crimes against humanity, remain grateful to Venezuela for its oil aid over the past couple decades.

Some hemispheric heads of state, including Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, are not attending the summit to protest Biden’s refusal to invite not only Maduro but also the leaders of Cuba and Nicaragua. Like Venezuela's, their governments are considered dictatorships and in violation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.