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.
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.