Summit of the Americas: Did Biden’s snub of Venezuela lead to a last-minute trip to Turkey?

As US President Joe Biden greets more than 20 Western Hemisphere leaders in Los Angeles, one of those excluded from the California meeting is holding his own high-level talks on the other side of the globe: Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro hastily flew to Ankara to meet your Turkish counterpart.

The Summit of the Americas, a triennial meeting of regional leaders from Alaska to Patagonia hosted by the US for the first time since 1994, is the Biden administration’s most determined attempt to advance the US agenda in the Western Hemisphere. But the organization of the summit was far from perfect.

The leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were excluded from the meeting due to their autocratic governments and poor human rights record, prompting the leaders of several other countries to boycott the summit in solidarity. In the most notable defection, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent lower-ranking officials in his place.

Cuba, which was invited to previous summits in 2018 and 2015 and is expected to be invited this year as well, called its expulsion “undemocratic”.

Maduro also criticized the decision but went a step further by calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a visit that appeared to have been arranged at the last minute. According to Venezuelan law, the head of state must obtain permission from Congress to travel abroad on official visits. The Maduro-controlled National Assembly confirmed the permit on Tuesday evening, an hour after the presidential plane had already landed in Ankara.

The essence of the visit was clear from the very beginning: Maduro sends a signal that, despite the exclusion of the United States, there will always be people around the world who are ready to accept him. “Today I have a busy agenda of meetings with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. […] Venezuela’s voice is heard all over the world” – Maduro tweeted Wednesday morning.
While Turkey is a NATO member and US ally, it is also a friend of the Venezuelan leader. Turkey becomes a buyer of Venezuelan gold — some of them have been tainted with allegations of human rights violations — since at least 2018, and Maduro and Erdogan have visited each other several times over the past few years.

Maduro’s visit also allows Erdogan to send a message that his country is independent and can make the foreign policy decisions it wants.

By the way, Russia is also in the business – on the same day that Maduro landed in Turkey, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ended up in Ankara.. The Venezuelan president has been a staunch supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine, even as Washington considered returning its oil to the world market to replace Russia’s.

Although there has been no official statement as to whether the two sides met in Ankara, one can bet that the coincidence has not escaped Washington’s attention.