MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For the first time in the Summit of the Americas seven year history, a delegation from Cuba will join the leaders of the Americas in Panama City for the event.
Cuba’s participation in the summit was agreed on when all of Latin American and Caribbean leaders at the last summit, in Colombia in 2012, voted to invite them. The U.S. and Canada have traditionally opposed its presence.
Also in attendance, will be a delegation of Cuban resistance leaders who live both on and off the island.
The delegation includes activists Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antúnez, who heads the Cuban National Civic Resistance Front, human rights advocate Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, who leads the Rosa Parks Movement, Leticia Ramos Herrería, activist with the Ladies in White, and Rolando Rodriguez-Lobaina, coordinator for the Eastern Democratic Alliance.
Among the Cuban American leaders in the delegation are Sylvia Iriondo, President of Mothers Against Repression, and Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat of the Cuban Democratic Directorate.
“We are going to Panama to take a message on behalf of our people in Cuba who yearn to be free,” said Iriondo.
The group of Cuban resistance leaders, many of whom are taking a risk leaving the island, say it’s worth it to represent democracy and provoke change for their country during the summit.
Heads of state from across the Western Hemisphere will be attendance at the summit including President Barack Obama, Raul Castro and Venezuela’s Nicholas Maduro.
“We believe that the Summit of the Americas, by including the Raul Castro dictatorship, has excluded the Cuban people,” said Orlando Gutierrez.
The summit comes just months after the Obama Administration and the Castro regime decided in December to normalize relations after nearly half a century. This year’s summit will be the first time in two years that President Obama and Mr. Castro will meet face to face.
“Nothing has changed in Cuba under Castro’s regime. What needs to change isn’t U.S. policy towards Cuba. What needs to change is the regime itself,” said Iriondo.
The delegation said their objective in attending the summit is to provoke change that will end the repression and establish a democracy in the island nation.
“We do not recognize the Castro regime as representatives of Cuba or the Cuban people,” said Iriondo.
Among the items expected to be discussed by the Presidents and Prime Ministers of North, Central and South American nations at the summit are migration, trade and security. China’s role in the region is also expected to be brought up. Latin American and Caribbean countries have borrowed nearly $120 billion from China over the past ten years.