, CUMANA, Apr 16 – Washington’s bete noire in South America, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said Thursday he will veto a declaration prepared for a Summit of the Americas this weekend because Cuba’s exclusion was not mentioned.
"Venezuela puts its veto from now on this declaration. We say, with other countries, that we do not agree with this declaration," Chavez said on the eve of the three-day summit that he and leaders of 33 other nations are to attend in Trinidad and Tobago.
US President Barack Obama is to participate in the meeting — his first multilateral summit south of the US border.
Chavez, a leftwing socialist who frequently antagonizes the United States, is championing a general Latin American push to see Cuba reintegrated into regional bodies it was pushed out of under US pressure.
Cuba, which Washington has subjected to a 47-year-old economic embargo, is the only nation on the continent not invited to the Summit of the Americas — something Chavez has called unacceptable.
The summit itself is to concentrate on the issues of energy, the environment and public safety. The declaration, while addressing those topics, was not intended to be binding or policy changing.
Obama has said he hopes the meeting will be an opportunity to renew ties with Latin American and Caribbean nations that dimmed under his predecessor, George W. Bush.
He has also attempted to let some air out of the debate over Cuba ahead of the summit by lifting restrictions on Cuban Americans traveling to the communist money and and sending money to relatives there.
In a statement published by several US and Latin American newspapers on the eve of the summit, Obama also tried to refocus the agenda on regional responses to the economic crisis and other issues instead of Cuba.
"We don’t need a debate about whether to have a rigid, state-run economy or unbridled and unregulated capitalism — we need pragmatic and responsible action that advances our common prosperity," Obama wrote, according to a White House transcript.