By Carlena Knight
The nation’s leader is standing in solidarity with allies Venezuela and Cuba by pledging to boycott the upcoming Summit of the Americas.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne told Observer on Wednesday that no definitive decision had been made regarding the country’s attendance, but Cabinet confirmed a day later that Browne “would not be participating under these conditions”.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas told media yesterday it would be a “slap in the face” to Venezuela if PM Browne was to attend when Nicolas Maduro, who Antigua and Barbuda recognises as Venezuela’s president, had not been invited by host nation the US, along with the leaders of Cuba and Nicaragua.
The US has invited Juan Guiado, who it regards as Venezuela’s interim president, to the summit taking place in Los Angeles in June.
“The Prime Minister will not attend the meetings if Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua are going to be excluded,” Minister Nicholas told Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing.
“We felt that it would be a slap in the face of our partner, Venezuela, if we were to be attending and consorting if you will – if it is the wrong choice of words I apologise – with Guiado who we do not recognise and so we have taken the principal position about the right to self-determination by states and so that is the position.
“It may well be that, at a different level, the Foreign Affairs Minister could attend but certainly it will not have the benefit of an estate head from Antigua attend that meeting.”
Caricom previously indicated that other regional heads would also not attend if the three countries were excluded from the summit.
However, several member states appear to have since had a change of heart.
Nicholas conceded that “unanimity in Caricom is always a challenge”.
He did however clarify that if the current conditions change, then Antigua and Barbuda will attend.
“It could, if there are further assurances given, if there are ameliorations made in respect of perhaps Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua being allowed to participate.
“If those circumstances change then the Antigua position would change but for now the Prime Minister would not attend and we are giving consideration for the Foreign Minister to attend in a low capacity,” Nicholas said.
The Summits of the Americas is a series of international meetings that bring together the leaders of countries in the Organization of American States (OAS). The June event is the ninth edition.
Previous summits have launched initiatives on trade, democracy, environment, education, and anti-corruption efforts, among other things.