Cuba to host Latin American summit; U.S. notably absent


(Reuters) – Latin American and Caribbean leaders converge on Cuba this week to discuss trade, peace and human rights in a further sign of regional eagerness to challenge the dominance of the United States.

The two-day summit is expected to take up issues such as Colombian peace talks, lingering poverty in Haiti and human rights. Thirty-three countries from the region will participate, notably without the United States and Canada, which are not invited.

While the visiting heads of state and government are likely to express solidarity with Cuba and perhaps seek an audience with former Cuban President Fidel Castro, Cuban dissidents who advocate greater human rights on the communist-ruled island will also try to capture attention with so many leaders and journalists present.

At previous international events hosted by Cuba, dissidents attempted to highlight human rights violations and a lack of democracy in the Western Hemisphere’s only one-party state.

Government opponents reported over the weekend they were warned by police against attending a “Forum on Democracy” in Havana on Tuesday and that a number of activists had been temporarily detained.

Among those arrested was Jose Ferrer, leader of the Santiago de Cuba-based Patriotic Union of Cuba, one of the most active opposition groups. Police detained Ferrer on Friday in Havana and released him on Sunday, his group said.