Imagine a U.S. President came to the Summit of the Americas and, while criticizing the government of a certain oil-rich South American nation, remarked that he does enjoy Venezuelan salsa singers like Rubén Blades.
He’d be the butt of jokes on late-night Latin American TV — because Blades is Panamanian, not Venezuelan.
Which is why gringos attending the Summit of the Americas this past weekend considered it eminently fair to chuckle at Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro — who in his U.S.-bashing speech remarked that he does enjoy American rock guitar icons like Jimi Hendrix and...Eric Clapton.
Clapton, unfortunately, is British.
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It was that kind of weekend for Maduro. The leader of Venezuela’s left-wing Bolivarian Revolution had come to Panama hoping to turn the summit into yet another anti-Washington fiesta. And on the eve of the gathering it seemed he might have his way.
Then, just before Maduro was set to speak on Saturday, Latin America’s lead leftist — Cuban President Raúl Castro, marking the first time his communist country had ever been invited to the summit — all but short-circuited Venezuela’s agenda.
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Tim Padgett is WLRN’s Americas editor.