The Summit of the Americas, which begins Friday, was supposed to mark the United State’s return to the fold. During the last few meetings of the hemisphere’s leaders, Washington had been sidelined over its stance on the Falklands, the war on drugs and, most important, its insistence that Cuba not be invited to the party. But with Washington-Havana talks underway and the Cuban delegation headed to the summit for the first time since the event was launched in 1994, the stage seemed set for a historic snapshot: Cuban and U.S. leaders shaking hands in the Americas for the first in 15 years. (Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro shook hands in 2000 at the United Nations in New York.)
Now, Venezuela is threatening to spoil that simple, cheerful photo-op. President Nicolás Maduro is swooping into the summit with a mission of his own: to force Washington to repeal the sanctions it levied on Caracas last month.