MANAGUA (Reuters) – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said his government was “not interested” in attending the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas next month, which some leaders have criticized for reports it may exclude the Central American country along with Cuba and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
Nicaragua was previously informed that it would be excluded from the summit, which will take place in Los Angeles, according to a person in Washington familiar with the matter.
“We are not interested in being at that summit,” Ortega said at a public event late on Wednesday. “This summit does not dignify anyone, rather, it dirties them, it sullies them. We Latin Americans have to defend ourselves so that they respect us.”
Ortega won a fourth consecutive term in November after jailing rivals and cracking down on critical media, triggering international criticism. He has frequently accused the United States of being interventionist and trying to undermine his government.
He added in Wednesday’s speech that Latin American leaders already meet via the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), comprised of 32 countries.
A senior State Department official said in April that Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government would likely be excluded because the summit is meant to focus on democracy in the region.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has urged all countries to be included and said he may not attend otherwise. On Thursday, he told reporters he expected a response from U.S. President Joe Biden this week after expressing concerns to U.S. special adviser Christopher Dodd.
The Biden administration on Thursday accused Cuba of fueling controversy over its possible exclusion from the summit to pit itself against the United States and distract attention from its human rights record at home.
(This story corrects fifth paragraph to show CELAC is comprised of 32 countries, not 33.)
(Reporting by Ismael Lopez; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Leslie Adler)