by Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, March 7 — Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, a staunch ally of Washington, arrives in Havana on Wednesday to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro and convalescing Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
Santos comes to Cuba with two objectives: The first is to discuss a possible invitation to Cuba to attend the Summit of the Americas set for April 14-15 in Cartagena, and the second, is to sign pending bilateral trade agreements with Venezuela.
The Obama administration is steadfast against Cuba’s participation in the summit because the Caribbean nation doesn’t meet Washington’s criteria of a “democratic” nation.
Meanwhile, the eight-nation Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas (ALBA) supports Cuba’s presence. Some of its members, led by Ecuador, have suggested their presence might be in jeopardy if Cuba is not invited to attend.
Some Colombian media are speculating that Santos may try to convince Castro not to request to attend the gathering, noted dpa news agency on Wednesday.
In the last Summit of Americas back in 2009, in Trinidad and Tobago, President Chavez gave Obama a copy of Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano’s classic “The Open Veins of Latin America”. Obama never disclosed whether he had bothered to read the book.
Santos is expected to leave Cuba by Thursday.
While relations were tense between neighboring Venezuela and Colombia during the Uribe administrations, President Hugo Chavez’ mentor, Fidel Castro and brother Raul maintained stable relations with the government of Colombia, despite its military alliance with the United States.
When the current Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos was running for office in 2010, Chavez’ called him an enemy and a threat to Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua and said that his winning the presidency could lead to war.
Chavez’ noted that the Colombian military under President Uribe, Santos predecessor, had carried out, with US assistance, a military incursion into Ecuador.
For his part candidate Santos had told Chavez that he should stay out of internal Colombian affairs.
Shortly after Santos took office, he and Chavez mended the fences and re-launched their diplomatic relations after a meeting in August 2010.
“We have had a frank, direct and sincere dialogue, and I think we have taken a big step in re-establishing confidence,” said Santos.
Likewise, Chavez said it was time “to turn the page.” He added, “We have to learn to live together. Our peaceful revolution in Venezuela does not represent any threat to Colombia.”