Thursday, June 12, 2014

OAS 44th General Assembly: U.S. increasingly alone in efforts to isolate Cuba

By Sergio Alejandro Gómez

The recent 44th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) held in Paraguay’s capital Asunción, clearly showed that the United States is increasingly alone in its efforts to isolate Cuba, a strategy unsuccessfully followed since January of 1959.

Although the issue was not listed on the official agenda, debate on Cuba’s participation in the upcoming Summit of the Americas, to be held in Panama next year, occupied a good amount of time at the June 3-5 gathering.

It is not, in fact, an issue to be decided by the OAS itself, but one made by the country organizing the Summit. It was clear that sister countries in the region are not disposed to live another 50 years with the unjust exclusion of Cuba and lost no time in making their position clear, reiterating that they will not accept another meeting without Cuban participation.

Cuba’s presence at these events, where heads of state from the Americas gather every three years, is a long-standing demand of the Latin American and Caribbean community, since the first Summit was held in Miami in 1994.


The issue emerged immediately during the opening of the 44th Assembly, when Nicaragua began the first round of statements and its representative Dennis Moncada recalled, “It is not possible to hold another Summit of the Americas without the presence of Cuba,” as many said during the 2012 Cartagena meeting.

Throughout the three-day gathering, statements were made by some 20 countries in support of Cuba. Roy Chaderton, Venezuela’s permanent representative to the OAS, insisted that “preconditions and vetoes” with respect to Cuba must end.

The delegation from St. Vincent and the Grenadines spoke for the Caribbean Community (Caricom), reiterating the group’s firm position in favor of Cuba’s participation, and St. Lucian Foreign Minister Alva Baptiste took advantage of the occasion to emphasize Cuba’s accomplishments in health and education as human rights, recalling that the majority of U.S. citizens now support a change in Washington’s policy toward Cuba.

Explicit rejection of the exclusion, along with statements indicating that countries would not attend the 7th Summit, if Cuba is not invited, were again expressed by representatives from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia. Argentina joined this group, with Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman summarizing the situation by saying, “If Cuba is excluded, we consider ourselves excluded, as well.”

OAS General Secretary José Miguel Insulza acknowledged, at the conclusion of the event, that the great majority of countries favor the attendance of all countries, saying, “If we talk about inclusion, we can not exclude anyone. All countries of this region and the Caribbean must be present.”


The U.S. delegation, including Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom and permanent OAS representative, Carmen Lomellín, were obliged to defend the indefensible U.S. position alone, with a brief, tepid statement of support from Canada. The two could only manage to repeat the overused U.S. refrain about the need for a “democratic Cuba,” before the country could attend a Summit of the Americas. Lomellín and Higginbottom were responding, surely unaware, to a question posed by Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro 52 years ago, in the Second Declaration of Havana, when he asked, “How long will they be so shameless and cynical to talk about democracy?”

“If democracy means the people, if democracy means government of the people, then what is this?” he added, speaking before hundreds of thousands of Cubans gathered in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución for a general assembly of the people, following the OAS decision made in Uruguay to expel Cuba.

Fidel was confident that Cuba would always have at its side “the solidarity of all free peoples of the world,” and “all honorable men and women of the world,” clarifying that what had been heard in Punta del Este was the voice of oligarchies, not that of the peoples.


It was precisely this new voice of the people which was heard in Paraguay, not only in support of Cuba, but during discussions of common positions on the region’s principal problems.

Based on the principle of unity within diversity, an agreement was reached to call on Britain to participate in talks with Argentina on the issue of the Malvinas, with speakers emphasizing their support for Argentine sovereignty over the islands, occupied by force to create a 21st century British colonial enclave.

The U.S. delegation could not have felt comfortable with the agreement, having violated the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, to support the UK during the 1982 Malvinas War.

Those attending the General Assembly also voted to support the government of Venezuela, facing violence perpetuated by the right wing opposition and supported from abroad. Foreign Minister Elías Jaua described the attacks on the country’s constitutional order which has been fully documented and widely denounced.

The OAS body agreed to a resolution supporting peace talks between the Colombian government of Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP) which have been underway in Havana since November of 2012. Colombia’s Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín, thanked everyone for their support, especially guarantors Cuba and Norway, and companion countries Venezuela and Chile.


The future of Our America is to be found in integration, in regional organizations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC); Unasur, (the South American Union); the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, Alba; and others. These groups have shown that it is possible to build unity within diversity, with respect for the histories and cultures of all, without discrimination.

These are the values recognized by the vast majority of the world’s countries, in the yearly UN vote against the U.S. blockade of Cuba. These are the values of those who demand that Cuba be removed from the spurious list of state sponsors of terrorism; and by those recently assembled in Washington demanding justice for the Cuban Five.

Now, as U.S. citizens increasingly favor a change in U.S. policy toward their neighbor to the south, it behooves the government to stop listening to a radical, right wing minority which supports continued aggression and subversive operations in Cuba.

How far will U.S. disrespect for Latin American and Caribbean countries go? How will the U.S. deal with this increasing isolation, given the process of change underway in the region? Will the U.S. boycott the Summit of the Americas which it created, for fear of being in the same room with a revolutionary leader? These are only a few of the questions which remain unanswered after the 44th General Assembly of the Organization of American States.

June 11, 2014