As US President Joe Biden greets more than 20 Western Hemisphere leaders in Los Angeles, one of those excluded from the California gathering is holding his own high-level talks on the other side of the globe: Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro has hastily flown to Ankara to meet with his Turkey counterpart.
Leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were excluded from the meeting because of their autocratic governments and poor human rights records — prompting leaders of several other countries to boycott the Summit in solidarity. In the most notable defection, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sent lower-ranking officials in his stead.
Cuba, which had been invited to previous summits in 2018 and 2015 and expected to be invited this year too, called its exclusion “undemocratic.”
Maduro also criticized the decision but went a step further by calling on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — a visit that seems to have been organized at the last minute. Under Venezuelan law, the head of state must receive an authorization from congress to travel abroad on official visits. The Maduro-controlled National Assembly confirmed the authorization on Tuesday evening — an hour after the presidential plane had already landed in Ankara.
Maduro’s visit also allows Erdogan to send a message that his country is independent and gets to make the foreign policy decisions it wants.
While there’s been no official statement on whether the two sides met in Ankara, you can bet the coincidence wasn’t lost on Washington.