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Cuba's Castro joins Trump in skipping Americas Summit

AP  |  Lima 

Cuban joined a steadily growing list of leaders who have followed US in choosing to send a to what is shaping up into a decidedly low-key Summit of the

The gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders kicked off today in without the presence of at least five presidents besides Trump and the list of cancelled RSVPs could grow.

Castro had never officially confirmed his attendance but he was widely expected to show up to bid farewell to regional allies as he prepares to step down from the Cuban presidency in a week's time. Instead he sent his to lead the Cuban delegation.

Nicaragua's was also widely expected to snub the event in solidarity with fellow leftist of Venezuela, who had his invitation withdrawn.

Meanwhile, the presidents of El Salvador, and all announced they will be staying home, saying they need to attend to pressing domestic matters and will send alternates instead. Ecuador's president showed up but then quickly returned home after three journalists kidnapped by holdout Colombian rebels were killed.

Analysts said the shrinking list of presidential attendees could be indicative of declining US influence in the hemisphere. Trump is the first US president to ditch the event, which was started by President in 1994 as a way to assert American trade influence in the region. Trump cancelled in order to manage the US response to an on civilians in

"It appears that in most of these situations, there are specific and unique reasons for heads of state not to attend," said Matt Clausen, who is in as of the Washington Office on

"What has changed since President Trump pulled out is the calculus about the overall importance of the summit." And it isn't just a rising roster of no-shows that make this year's summit of dubious importance: Presidents from three of Latin America's most populous nations who are attending are all slated to leave office within the next 12 months.

The summit was initially started to promote democracy and free trade in the Americas, but in recent years both topics have become testy subjects. Instead the summit has become a stage for awkward encounters between leftist leaders and their northern counterparts.

Protesters led by soccer legend burned an effigy of President to protest the US-led invasion of at the 2005 summit in Four years later, the late Venezuelan leader famously gave then President a copy of a classic leftist book, "The Open Veins of Latin America," detailing the history of US military interventions in the region.

Another key summit moment came in 2015 when Obama and Castro shook hands while in four months after the US announced it would renew diplomatic relations with the communist island.

Things have changed dramatically since that handshake.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, April 14 2018. 03:45 IST