Panamanian Foreign Minister and Vice President Isabel de Saint Malo on Thursday invited Cuban President Raul Castro to next year’s America’s Summit, a government statement published in oficial media on Friday said, a gesture Castro temed “positive” and that puts the United States on the spot.
De Saint Malo, on a one day visit to Cuba, met with Castro where she delivered the verbal invitation.
The government statement called the meeting “cordial” and said it focused on “regional and international issues”.
“The Vice President expressed the interest of her government to advance bilateral relations and count on the presence of Cuba at the 7th Summit of the Americasthat will be held next year in her country, an invitation that was received positively by the Cuban president,” the statement said.
The United States, which innitiated the summits in the early 1990s, blocked Cuba’s invitation to the previous six events, held every two years, on the grounds that the Commnist-run country’s one party political system was not democratic.
Panama’s invitation amounts to a major diplomatic coup for Cuba and follows demands by a number of area governments that it be invited.
De Saint Malo was in Washinton earlier this month where she informed Secretary of State John Kerry that Cuba would be invited to the summit.
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki, during her daily briefing, took issue with the invitation.
“From here, our view is that at the 2001 Summit of the Americas, all participating governments agreed to consensus that ‘the maintenance and strengthening of the rule of law and strict respect for the democratic system are at the same time a goal and a shared commitment and are an essential condition of our presence at this and future summits,’” she said.
“So we should not undermine commitments previously made, but should instead encourage – and this is certainly our effort – the democratic changes necessary for Cuba to meet the basic qualifications,” Psaki added.
Cuba has normal relations with every country in the Western Hemeshere except the United States, which has maintained comprehensive sanctions on the Caribbean island for over half a century.
At the same time it is the only country that does not have a multi-party system.
Panama will host the 7th Americas Summit in April.