President Obama's rapprochement with Cuba is seen by many as directed against Socialist Venezuela, whose influence in Latin America has grown as that of the US has diminished. Obama seeks to drive a wedge between Venezuela and Cuba, and to counter criticism in the region over US aggression against Socialist Cuba. The timing of his overtures to Cuba is seen as having to do with the Summit of the Americas going on now in Panama, which some Latin American countries had threatened to boycott if the US ban on Cuba's attendance wasn't lifted.
|Barak Obama, Raul Castro, Ban Ki Moon, Panama City, Panama, April 11, 2015 - Reuters|
Things haven't exactly gone according to Obama's plan. Cuba has remained steadfast in its support for Venezuela, having harshly condemned, as have most other Latin American countries, each of a series of actions recently taken by the US against Venezuela intended to destabilize it and bring about regime change in that country. And Cuba has several times publily asserted in strongly worded terms that any rapprochement with the US would have no affect on its internal politics and policies, and has consistently insisted that the condition for the rapprochement is that the US lift its economic blockade of Cuba.
Discussions between the US and Cuba, which US officials predicted would only take a few weeks, and thereby be completed before the Summit of the Americas, are still ongoing after three months. And it's anticipated by many that the Summit will be dominated by discussion of US aggression against Venezuela.
The Summit itself is held by the US dominated Organization of American States, which has diminished in relevance as it becomes largely replaced as a forum for Latin American cooperation by UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and ALBA, the BolivarianAlliance for the Peoples of Our America, all organizations initiated by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
|Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro arriving at the Summit of the Americas, April 11, 2015 - AP|
Update 4/11/15: Coverage of the summit in the media of the US and its allies has focused primarily on the Castro-Obama "handshake" but some has attempted to include the Venezuelan dynamic. Of that most takes the US State Department line, as an article in The Atlantic by Moises Naim, which never mentions that Naim was a top Venezuelan official in the pre Chavez days and has since made a career of trashing Venezuela at places like Foreign Policy magazine.
Among US reporters there seems to be little awareness of the dynamics now playing out in US-Latin American relations and most see Latin America through a lens created by US government propaganda. Cuba, for example, since Obama launched his rapprochement scheme in December, in the eyes of the US media has suddenly become a "good guy" while its close ally Venezuela remains a "bad guy."
US media stories about Venezuela traditionally repeat a few talking points about the country provided by the US State Department, such as that it's inflation rate is astronomical, it's teetering on the verge of collapse, and that the violence that occurred during last summer's anti government protests was done by the Venezuelan government and not by protesters (NM's senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have perpetuated this falsehood).
Likewise, with a few exceptions in Op-ed pieces, Venezuela is seen in the US media as trying to spoil the Summit of the Americas. Not mentioned is the fact that all Latin American countries, even the handful that remain American client states like Columbia, Uruguay and Honduras, have sided with Venezuela. All, for example, signed onto a statement issued last month at a UNASUR summit of Latin America's foreign ministers that condemned the latest round of US sanctions against Venezuela and demanded the US respect Venezuela's sovereignty.