Economy & Trade, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean

LATIN AMERICA: Cuba Wants Integration Without OAS

Patricia Grogg

HAVANA, Jun 4 2009 (IPS) - For decades, Fidel Castro has been the most vociferous opponent of an eventual return by Cuba to the Organisation of American States (OAS), which he has referred to as a “colonial ministry,” “odious,” “shameless” and “rotten.” “The OAS was the accomplice to all of the crimes committed against Cuba,” he also wrote.

Nevertheless, he closely followed the 39th OAS General Assembly that ended Wednesday in Honduras with a resolution that put an end to the 47-year suspension of Cuba without conditions.

“Never before has such rebelliousness been seen,” wrote former president Fidel Castro in a column published Wednesday, prior to the OAS decision, referring to the debate on opening up the doors to Cuba’s readmission.

As if he had already said everything he needed to say, the convalescent Castro has not yet publicly referred to the OAS decision.

But on Thursday, the president of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcón, described the debate in the hemispheric body as “a great victory for Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as for the people of Cuba.”

In Alarcón’s view, the decision to revoke the 1962 resolution that expelled Cuba “puts an end to an injustice and a throwback to truly prehistoric times.” However, he said Cuba’s view of the OAS would not change: “I don’t know how many times we have said it: what happened yesterday does nothing to modify what Cuba thought yesterday, the day before yesterday, or today.”

The moderator of a TV programme on the issue said “Cuba has not asked to, and does not want to, return to the OAS, which has a shady history and is a sellout. But it recognises the political value, the symbolism and the rebelliousness of this decision driven by governments of the people in Latin America.”

Political analyst Luis Suárez, an expert on integration issues who took part in the programme, said the decision cannot be understood without taking into account the “historical precedent” of how in the last few years, the different forms of “resistance” by the people of Latin America and the Caribbean have gradually changed the political panorama in the region.

He said the decision reached by the region’s foreign ministers at the OAS assembly was also “a defeat for U.S. policy towards Cuba and the region,” although he pointed out that “regardless of the significance of this resolution, the OAS has not changed, and should apologise to the countries of Latin America for its actions at the service of Washington’s interests.”

The “mother of all battles” will now be creating a Latin American and Caribbean regional body that does not include the United States, said Suárez.

“That is where the continent’s future will be decided,” said the analyst.

In brief remarks to IPS, Suárez said such an organisation is no longer just wishful thinking, but is a project “that is being discussed” and that will be on the agenda of the second Latin American and Caribbean summit on integration and development, to be held in Mexico.

“Cuba’s foreign policy towards the region does not involve a return to the OAS, but a continued focus on working for the creation of an organisation without the U.S.,” said the expert, who added that this position is well-known to the governments that pushed for and applauded the lifting of the OAS suspension of Cuba.

The Cuban government has never hidden its lack of interest in returning to the Washington-based inter-American body. In Suárez’s view, that position is not going to change, and cannot be interpreted as a snub against the rest of the governments of the region.

The OAS resolution adopted Wednesday by consensus revoked the Jan. 31, 1962 decision to suspend Cuba on the grounds that its “adherence…to Marxism-Leninism is incompatible with the inter-American system.”

The resolution also states that Cuba’s re-entry would be the result of a “process of dialogue” that would begin at Havana’s request, under the “practices, proposals and principles” of the OAS.

Suárez noted that Cuban President Raúl Castro also rejected Cuba’s eventual return to the inter-American system when he attended the first Latin American and Caribbean summit on integration and development, hosted by Brazil in December.

“The North Sea will merge with the South Seas and a serpent will be born from an eagle’s egg before Cuba joins the OAS,” he said at the summit.

On that occasion, Cuba officially rejoined the Rio Group – the main Latin American policy-coordinating forum – which held an extraordinary presidential meeting during the Latin American and Caribbean summit, the first such regional gathering to take place without the participation of the United States.

That process of regional reinsertion has continued this year with visits to Havana by nearly a dozen Latin American leaders, the last of whom, President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay, arrived Tuesday night and will stay through Friday.

And this week, El Salvador’s new left-wing President Mauricio Funes restored diplomatic ties with Cuba, making the United States the only country in the hemisphere without normal bilateral relations with this socialist Caribbean island nation.

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