Biden sidelines Venezuela’s pro-democracy leader from summit

Jun 8, 2022, 2:24 PM | Updated: 9:58 pm

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A little more than two years ago, Juan Guaidó was showered with bipartisan applause when President Donald Trump during his State of the Union speech praised the Venezuelan opposition leader as a “very brave man” who carries on his shoulders the democratic hopes of an entire nation.

But in a sign of how far his political fate has fallen, and how quickly U.S. geopolitical calculations can shift, the 38-year-old wasn’t even invited to this week’s Summit of the Americas — despite the Biden administration’s persistent promotion of democracy and insistence it recognizes Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president.

Meanwhile, the man Guaidó has been trying to unseat, Nicolás Maduro, is taking something of a victory lap. On a rare foreign trip to Turkey this week, Maduro, who is the target of U.S. sanctions and a federal narcotics indictment, denounced the decision to exclude him and leftist allies from Cuba and Nicaragua from the gathering as a “stab” in the back of regional cooperation.

“This is a clear win for Maduro,” Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of Americas, said from Los Angeles, where he was attending the summit. “He’s seen allies take up his cause at the summit while preventing his primary rival, whom Washington recognizes as president, from attending.”

In what may be an attempt at damage control, Biden on Wednesday spoke with Guaidó. It was the first time the two leaders have spoken and during the call, which lasted around 17 minutes, Biden reiterated his support for Guaidó, whose claim to the presidency stems from his role as head of the National Assembly elected in 2015.

“President Biden expressed his support for Venezuelan-led negotiations as the best path toward a peaceful restoration of democratic institutions, free and fair elections, and respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Venezuelans,” according to a White House readout of the call. “They discussed the role the United States and other international partners can play to support a negotiated solution to Venezuela’s crisis. President Biden reaffirmed the United States is willing to calibrate sanctions policy as informed by the outcomes of negotiations that empower the Venezuelan people to determine the future of their country.”

But coming on the heels of weeks of silence from the White House about whether Guaidó would be invited or not, the call provided little comfort to Venezuela’s pro-democracy movement.

“We don’t want to be seen as party crashers going where we aren’t wanted,” said one Guaidó envoy on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic dealings.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan downplayed suggestions the U.S. was snubbing a staunch ally.

Speaking aboard Air Force One on its way to Los Angeles, Sullivan insisted the decision to not invite anyone from the Guaidó camp, and instead involve civil society activists from Venezuela, was a tactical one to encourage negotiations between Maduro and his opponents that leads to “ultimately a better future for the Venezuelan people.”

Guaido’s possible presence at the summit also appears to have irritated many of the Venezuelan government’s allies, including Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who decided to skip the summit over the exclusion of Maduro and the leaders of Cuba and Nicaragua.

A Mexican official confirmed that his government asked the U.S. to exclude Guaidó as part of its back-and-forth with the Biden administration on the guest list, an effort that ultimately failed to persuade López Obrador to partake in the summit. The official, who requested anonymity to discuss diplomatic dealings, said that other countries had done the same.

Joining the Mexican leader’s boycott were fellow leftist leaders of Bolivia, Grenada, Honduras, St. Kitts & Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Also staying home in protest, although not in solidarity with Maduro, were the leaders of El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as the president Uruguay, who was exposed to COVID.

But it’s not just foreign pressure that has Biden wary of inviting Guaidó.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a spike in energy prices, the U.S. has started to re-evaluate its policy on Venezuela, a country that sits atop the world’s largest petroleum reserves but whose decades-long decline in oil production has been made worse by U.S. sanctions.

In March, U.S. officials led by Juan Gonzalez, the National Security Council’s senior director for the western hemisphere, traveled to Caracas to meet with Maduro. Then, as now, Guaidó was kept on the sidelines, with U.S. officials not meeting with him during the several day trip. The goal of the talks was to dangle before Maduro the possibility of sanctions relief in exchange for a return to negotiations in Mexico with his opponents, something that so far hasn’t happened.

Meanwhile, Guaidó continues to fight for change, although his street appearances are less frequent, and crowds greatly diminished from when he launched his challenge to Maduro in 2019.

On Saturday, his supporters were met in the western city of Maracaibo, a short distance from Colombia and a flight onward to the U.S., with a barrage of flying plastic chairs and fisticuffs from allies of Maduro.

“The violent ones were left empty handed,” Guaidó told a small group of supporters to shouts of “Freedom, Freedom, Freedom” after the raucous brawl. “Let’s be clear: we are not going to take a single step backward.”

— Goodman reported from Miami. AP Writer Claudia Torrens from New York and Jorge Rueda in Caracas, Venezuela contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Houston storms cause widespread damage on Friday...

Associated Press

Some in Houston facing no power for weeks after storms cause widespread damage, killing at least 4

Houston storms cause widespread damage on Friday, May 17. Thunderstorms hit the southeastern part of Texas, killing at least four people.

7 hours ago

Man gets 30 years in prison for attacking ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer...

Associated Press

Man gets 30 years in prison for attacking ex-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband with a hammer

A man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for attacking the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a hammer.

8 hours ago

audio from President Joe Biden’s interview about classified documents blocked...

Associated Press

GOP advances Garland contempt charges after White House exerts executive privilege over Biden audio

The move to release audio from President Joe Biden’s interview about classified documents was blocked on Thursday by the White House.

1 day ago

Asylum processing for new migrants: Changes could come soon...

Associated Press

The Biden administration is planning more changes to quicken asylum processing for new migrants

The Biden administration is planning to quicken the asylum processing for new migrants as an interim step rather than an executive order.

2 days ago

Record-setting rally for U.S. stocks reflects inflation slowing down...

Associated Press

Stock market today: Asian shares advance after another round of Wall St records

The S&P 500 jumped 1.2% to top its prior high set a month and a half ago. This move reflects a record-setting rally for U.S. stocks.

2 days ago

This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential candida...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump agree to hold presidential debates in June and in September

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have agreed to hold two campaign debates, on June 27 hosted by CNN and on Sept. 10 hosted by ABC.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


Collins Comfort Masters

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Biden sidelines Venezuela’s pro-democracy leader from summit