Where Cuba Doesn't Belong

By Castaneda, Jorge | Newsweek International, June 8, 2009 | Go to article overview

Where Cuba Doesn't Belong


Castaneda, Jorge, Newsweek International


The OAS Is for Democracies Only.

In 1962, at a special meeting of the Organization of American States, the Uruguayan resort of Punta del Este became famous for something more than just luxury condos, restaurants and hotels, and catering to the Argentine aristocracy during the holiday season. At that meeting, Cuba was suspended from the regional body, with the Cold War pretext that its espousal of "Marxism-Leninism" and an alliance with the Soviet Union were incompatible with membership in the hemispheric club and its organizations.

But this week, the OAS will hold its annual General Assembly in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and there is every reason to believe that the secretary-general, the Chilean Jose Miguel Insulza, and the hard-left nations of Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and their associates in South America and the Caribbean, will attempt to repeal the 1962 resolution. There is also every reason to believe that this suspension of the suspension will be approved, despite doubts and suspicions about Cuba in many countries, including the United States and Canada.

Technically, one could argue that there is no valid legal reason to maintain the Cold War resolution, and that could give the Obama administration, the Canadians and democratic Latin American governments the cover they need to go along with the far-left countries and the secretary-general and not find themselves all alone confronting the rest of the member states. But going from simply and symbolically repealing the nearly half-century-old resolution to actually readmitting Cuba to the OAS would not help the cause of democracy in Latin America if Havana does not comply with the conditions that the rest of the hemisphere's nations have established for belonging to the American concert.

In 2001, nations in the region came together to sign the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which states explicitly that representative democracy is a condition for belonging to the OAS, and defines it as "respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms," "periodic, free and fair elections based on secret balloting," separation of powers between truly independent branches of government and a pluralistic system of political parties and organizations. Needless to say, Cuba meets none of these conditions, and thus any attempt to invite Cuba back to the OAS should founder.

Yet it is possible that now or soon, the hard-left countries will try to move on readmitting Cuba, and that they will win this fight. The democracies of Latin America are not likely to reject the attempt, even if Cuba continues to insist it does not want to return to the organization. Readmission would mean access for the Cubans to Inter-American Development Bank resources that they desperately want, and many Latins would like to help the island. …

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