Maggie Alarcón

It´s my party

In Blockade, CELAC, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban Americans, Cuban Embargo, History, Miami/Cuba, OAS/OEA, Politics, US on March 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

Margarita Alarcón Perea

The OAS is an organization that dates back to way before the United Nations was created shortly after the end of World War II. Cuba is a founding member of both multinational bodies of work.

The objective of the UN is to safe guard the world from ever finding itself in situations like those created during the two world wars of the past century. The objective of the OAS was to unite the countries of the Americas in one body where nations belonging to the region could discuss and reach collaborative objectives aimed at furthering both development and security in the region.

After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, numerous member nations of the OAS backed a proposal made by the government of the United States whereby Cuba was voted out of the organization. Well, not quite. Most of the votes were actually abstentions made by those nations who didn’t wish to put their relationship with the US in any kind of peril. Those nations were: Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, and Ecuador. México voted against Cuba’s exclusion.

Fifty years later, the OAS finds itself a bit alienated. First of all, because of something the United States did a little over 25 years ago when it sided with The United Kingdom over the Faulkland Island dispute between Argentina to whom the islands rightfully belong and the UK way over on the other side of the world who pertains to retain ownership of the territory. Understandable given that the Brits have this nasty habit of taking what isn’t really theirs. The US broke hemispheric protocol by siding against the Americas on this issue. It was the Reagan era and so much more was yet to come that I really shouldn’t dwell on this point.

Today things are different. Cuba has survived rather well without belonging to the OAS. NAFTA has proven that in spite of US and Canadian insistence it simply doesn’t work for anyone, least of all the women in Tijuana and the ever increasing factory shutdowns in the US. In 1994 in Miami (where else?!), the US convened all the nations of the Americas to partake in the First Summit of the Americas where it proposed a new economic plan for the region. FTAA (Free Trade Agreement of the Americas) was never approved by the region; that´s why most of the readers have probably never heard the acronym, I am familiar with the Spanish translation ALCA and had to Google the English original. Subsequently other Summits have taken place and FTAA is still an unfamiliar term that simply doesn’t cut the mustard. Even more interesting is the fact that these summits don’t take place in a continuous and constant fashion like say on a yearly or biennial basis or even like the Olympics every four years. They have a rather unpredictable schedule which doesn’t offer much security when dealing with matters of state.
Incidentally, Cuba has never been invited to any one of these Erratic Summits of the Americas.

In 2004 President Hugo Chavez proposed the creation of a new hemispheric body in response to the Summits of the Americas, the OAS and the insistence of the US in favor of finally reaching consensus in favor of FTAA. ALBA was born. ALBA, Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. For those interested in linguistic word play, “alba” also means ¨day break¨ in Spanish which makes for the ideal acronym.

Cuba is a co-founder of the ALBA.

At its onset, the Latin American economic, social and cultural alternative had only a few members, but it is growing in numbers at a constant rhythm. It also gathers on a constant basis and has among its main objective to unite the continent. This year has already seen the celebration of the XI Summit of Presidents of the Alba Nations in Caracas, Venezuela. During the Alba Summit President Rafael Correa of Ecuador suggested that if Cuba was once again excluded from partaking in the Summit of the Americas or the OAS, Ecuador would boycott those summits from which Cuba were to be excluded from. Nicaragua and Bolivia followed suit backing this proposal.

In the month of April of this year, Cartagena de Indias in Colombia will be hosting the 6th Summit of the Americas.

The President of Colombia in a desperate intent to not have his country look foolish during next month’s event was down here trying to find a consensus whereby Cuba would understand that although most member states desired the island nation to join them during these meetings, unfortunately there had been a “veto” vote against Cuba´s participation. I´ll give the reader three guess….

Correct! The government of the United States doesn’t want Cuba to be a participant, or a member or even a guest at what they consider to be their party.

But the real question is why?

Human rights? Socialism? The former Soviet Union? Universal health care and education? Oil? Salsa bands? Another Ricky Ricardo?

  1. A former official from the Clinton Administration told me that the democracy language for the first Summit of the Americas was intended as a warning to would-be authoritarians, notably Fujimori at the time.

    It is also clear from the OAS democracy charter that the objective was to proactively stop the overthrow of elected governments by military golpes, as later happened with Honduras.

    Although not based on exhaustive research, I have not found any evidence that the language was intended to retroactively bar Cuba. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Cuba’s view of socialist democracy, and how it compares in practice with capitalist democracy, its institutional legitimacy within the country’s recognized legal government and history can not be disputed.

    The OAS has made clear the decision on participation in Cartagena is completely up to the host country. While the US would not be happy, not least for reasons of our pending election, it is not certain that President Raul Castro’s inclusion will preclude the participation of President Barack Obama, even at the risk they are photographed together in friendly conversation.

    The media coverage of the visit of President Santos to Cuba is confusing about the situation.

    Consensus works both ways. Consensus may not be present for universality. But is there consensus that a summit can take place without universality?

    Every country in the Hemisphere except obviously the US votes in regional and international forums in opposition to the US embargo and its campaign of isolation of Cuba. US officials tell me such actions don’t matter because it is all rhetoric and no country puts its own interests on the line.

    The question is not what ALBA alone says, but whether Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, etc., as well as Canada, believe the moment has come to insist the US rise above sectarian domestic politics and function as a real and equal partner with the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

    In Quaker terms, it is time for Washington to stand aside and let a consensus for inclusion reach closure.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

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