Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters this week that his boss, dictator Nicolás Maduro, would attend the annual Summit of the Americas despite being disinvited, with the aid of other leftist governments in the hemisphere.
The summit occurs annually and brings the leaders of the hemisphere’s nations together to discuss issues that affect the region. Venezuela’s ongoing political and humanitarian crisis is high atop the list of concerns. The Peruvian government, which will host the summit next month in Lima, rescinded its invitation to Maduro citing his regime’s record of human rights violations and, in particular, his call for a fraudulent presidential election to take place on May 20.
“A government that hosts the summit does not have the legal competence to ‘disinvite someone, that is completely outside the realm of the law,” Arreaza protested on Monday, in a press conference in New Delhi, India. “We have the right, we were part of the founding of the Summit of the Americas since 1994 and President Maduro will be there, he will come by sea.”
“The people of Peru support President Maduro,” Arreaza claimed, “and we will go there, I think we will have the help of many other governments who want us to be there.”
At least two regional leaders have objected to Maduro’s ban from the conference.
“I condemn and repudiate the so-called Lima Group,” leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales said of the coalition of Latin American states urging a transition for Venezuela out of socialism. “They are friends of Trump, who do not want Maduro to participate in the Summit of the Americas. I do not share this.”
Lenin Moreno, the left-wing president of Ecuador, also opposed the ban, but for different reasons than Morales.
“This is the international forum where we should be taking these sorts of positions … face to face,” Moreno told reporters, suggesting that he opposed Maduro’s governance but believed he should have a chance to defend himself at the summit.
Peruvian Foreign Minister Cayetana Aljovín announced Maduro was unwelcome at the event in February, citing the presidential election. Maduro disqualified, arrested, or forced into exile all opposition challengers, and will face a former ally of predecessor Hugo Chávez, along with Communist Party candidates and other leftists, in the election.
“Any unconstitutional violation of the democratic order in a state is an insurmountable obstacle to the participation of the government of this state in the Summit of the Americas,” a letter from organizers of the summit to Maduro reportedly read.
Maduro immediately responding by vowing to attend the summit.
“They don’t want to see me in Lima [Peru’s capital], but they are going to see me because I will go to the Summit of Americas, rain, hail, or shine, by air, land or sea,” Maduro said in February. “The indignity of the president and ministers who created this mess they call the Lima Group will be enshrined in history.”
Maduro also claimed Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski personally invited him to the summit, a claim Kuczynski denied.
Instead of inviting Maduro, summit organizers invited a coalition of anti-socialist opposition leaders in the country, who go by the title Soy Venezuela (“I am Venezuela”). Among the members of the coalition are the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, who was forced into exile after being beaten and arrested without charge; and María Corina Machado, a former lawmaker who was expelled from her office and tear-gassed for opposing the regime. Machado announced their participation on Twitter with the caption, “humanitarian intervention NOW!”
The Maduro regime has repeatedly refused to allow international aid groups to enter Venezuela and distribute food and medicine, despite the chronic scarcity of most basic medications and a food crisis that has forced thousands to eat garbage or lose dangerous amounts of weight.
While Maduro is not welcome at the summit, President Donald Trump is scheduled to attend, his first trip to Latin America since becoming president. Trump has been one of the most vocal opponents of Maduro in the hemisphere, welcoming Venezuelan anti-government activists to the White House and imposing growing sanctions on the highest-ranking members of the socialist regime.
“This travel highlights the President’s resolve to deepen our historical ties with our partners in the region and our joint commitment to improve security and prosperity for the people of the Americas,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of his travel to the meeting. “The President is looking forward to meeting with partners and allies who share our values and believe, as we do, that the promise of a safe and prosperous future rests in strong democracies, fair and reciprocal trade, and secure borders.”