Will OAS Decision to Readmit Cuba Change US-Latin America Relations?

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The surprise decision yesterday by the Organization of American States (OAS) to reopen its doors to Cuba is being touted as a political and diplomatic victory by both Washington and Latin America's left. But analysts claim it's unlikely the move to reverse the 1962 ban on Cuba's OAS membership will lead to a "new dawn" in US-Latin American relations, as several politicians have waxed poetically. In fact, many observers have noted, Cuba has shown no signs of wanting to rejoin the club. "The OAS decision is unlikely to hasten democratic change in Cuba; the Cuban government, after all, has repudiated the OAS and its core principles," says Latin America watcher Michael Shifter, who is with the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C. Latin American analysts agree. Nicaragua's Aldo Diaz Lacayo, a Sandinista political pundit and former Nicaraguan ambassador, said the resolution doesn't mean Cuba will rush to rejoin the OAS, which he calls a "half-dead organization" that "continues to be for and by the US." Wednesday's resolution, Mr. Diaz says, "Was, simply, the US finally accepting reality, because it had no other option." Though US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had argued that Cuba was not ready to be allowed back into the OAS until it makes progress on democratic governance and human rights issues, the US eventually compromised by agreeing to annul the 47-year-old resolution suspending Cuba's membership. Latin America applauds That decision that was heartily applauded by the rest of Latin America, but for different reasons. Some nations said the new consensus represents a pragmatic and flexible US administration that is able to change with the times. Leftist leaders in the region hailed it as a "defeat" for Uncle Sam and historic retribution "for the historic people of Cuba." Honduran President Mel Zelaya called the decision a "wise rectification" on the part of the OAS, and an important historic recognition of the validity of the 1959 Cuban Revolution. "Fidel Castro said history will absolve me, and today history has absolved him," Mr. Zelaya said, referring to the Cuban leader's famous 1953 speech. Smaller Caribbean nations were among those who applauded the loudest for the spirit of consensus in the OAS. The delegate from the island of Grenada went so far as to suggest that had such a similar spirit of consensus existed in 1983, the US invasion of his Caribbean island could have been avoided. But what does it mean in practical terms? Yet despite the celebration on both sides, there already appears to be disagreement over what the decision means in practical terms. Washington apparently thinks the resolution means Cuba can rejoin the organization on the terms that it be held accountable to its democratic charter, which some hope would act as a tool for political reform. But the left-leaning bloc of countries belonging to the Venezuelan-inspired Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), say the reversal of Cuba's membership ban carries no conditions. …