Cuban state propaganda newspaper Granma called for a regional “Latin America First” policy to combat the alleged “Monroe doctrine” revival occurring under President Donald Trump this week, promoting a “Thinking Americas Forum” to replace the pro-democracy Summit of the Americas that Trump is expected to attend.
The Summit of the Americas is held by the Organization of American States (OAS) and will occur next month in Lima, Peru. Cuba was banned from the OAS between the time of the Cuban Revolution until 2009, when a coalition of socialist states led by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chávez voted to tentatively allow Cuba back. The OAS requires all members to be participating democracies.
This year, the OAS did not invite Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, to the summit. Although Maduro has vowed he will personally disrupt the summit anyway and has lied about receiving an invitation, the Cuban government made legitimizing the Venezuelan tyranny a priority at the “Thinking Americas Forum.”
Granma promoted the forum on its website throughout the week. In a piece titled “It’s Time for Latin America First,” the newspaper described it as a “parallel” forum that will “have the challenge of showing the diversity and richness of Cuban civil society in times of transcendental change to guarantee a prosperous and sustainable socialism.” Despite being run by the Cuban Communist Party, the regime often chooses to use the word “socialist” for its autocratic rule as communism’s record of 100 million dead has largely tainted the communist brand.
“As the liberators said 200 years ago, it is time to say, ‘Latin America and the Caribbean first,'” the column concludes, deriding President Trump’s “America First” policy, and the president himself, as “xenophobic” and “reviving the Monroe doctrine.” The Monroe doctrine was an anti-imperialist policy that warned Europe not to meddle in the Western Hemisphere, as this constituted a threat to American interests. The Castro regime regularly claims to be an “anti-imperialist” regime, despite colonizing Venezuela, and refers to the United States as el imperio, “the empire.”
Claiming that Trump’s threat of “fire and fury” against North Korea would apply also to Latin America, the Granma piece goes on to warn that Trump will arrive at the Summit of the Americas “with his xenophobic rhetoric fresh in the memory of his Latin American and Caribbean analogs.” Rather than use the summit as planned—to address the dire humanitarian crisis in Venezuela—Granma‘s writers would prefer the occasion become a referendum on Trump.
This appears to be what occurred at Cuba’s “Thinking Americas Forum,” attended by government-approved Cuban organizations. On Wednesday, the forum published a list of demands for the Summit of the Americas, including: the exclusion of “citizens of Cuban origin and mercenary organizations” who oppose communism; a call to lift the embargo on Cuba, but not Cuba’s much larger embargo on the United States; and the expression of “support for the government of Venezuela.”
In addition to this more localized forum, Cuba has championed the creation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which hosts an annual summit attended by the hemisphere’s socialist leaders.
Cuba’s presence at the Summit of the Americas has largely been a destructive one. In 2015—the year President Barack Obama shook hands and shared a stage with dictator Raúl Castro at the event—Cuban government agents publicly assaulted members of Cuba’s dissident community who had traveled to the host nation, Panama, to repudiate the Castro record on human rights. Cuban government agents also disrupted sideline meetings with chanting and heckling of pro-democracy activists, before members of their delegation stormed out alongside Venezuelan representatives upon the summit expressing concerns for the starving Venezuelan population.
President Trump’s travel to the summit in April will be his first visit to Latin America as president.