Latin America and U.S Disagree Over Cuba

This April, the Sixth Summit of the Americas was held in Cartagena, Colombia.  Not only was an array of topics discussed at the Summit, including Shakira’s speech on education and early childhood development, but many questions were left unsettled.  One of these is whether Cuba should be invited to the Summit next time around (held in 2015 in Panama).  When President Barack Obama attended the Summit, he received a surprising response from many Latin American countries.  After Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos put the topic on the table for discussion between the member countries, some expressed the need for Cuba to be included in the Summit next time around.  Although Santos concluded that the majority (32) of the countries “supported the participation of Cuba”, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear they did not agree with this.  When we look at international organizations that are solely created by member states, we need to ask whether unanimity really achieves much or whether a majority consensus should be applied.  That is, the mission of bodies like the Organization of American States (OAS) is to facilitate discussion and to mobilize agreements between countries.  But does this really work when there can be no agreements among all the member countries?

Although President Obama stated that he doesn’t want to look to the past but to the future in dealing with Cuba, he also made it clear that he will not welcome Cuba because it “has not yet moved to democracy, has not yet observed basic human rights”.  Yet on the other hand, we have Latin American countries who have explicitly demonstrated that this is not a requirement for the inclusion of Cuba in the next Summit.  In Fact, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa refused to attend Sunday’s Summit in protest against Cuba’s OAS expulsion.  Alongside, the ALBA bloc of nations, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and some Caribbean nations, said they will not attend future Summits without Cuba’s presence.  Although Obama responded that there have been some initiatives done in regards with US-Cuba relations, there seemed to be a stern consensus on this issue between these countries.  O.K, so there are disagreements between Cuba’s participation in the next Summit.  What does this mean?

I think one of the important points to highlight here is that this Summit has been described as a rebellion of Latin America against U.S. diplomacy.  That’s a bit radical for my taste.  However, I do believe that this Summit has demonstrated stronger viewpoints opposing U.S. diplomacy than usual.  Some point out a degree of isolation Latin American countries have experience from the U.S., where China has taken a strong hold of trading with these counties.   What I think is interesting is that we can see a less U.S-reliant Latin America, where voicing their opinions is not subject to American approval.  Although there was no declaration signed during this Summit because of lack of unanimity, there seems to be a strong majority voice.  This leads to many important questions on the efficiency of such organizations and their ultimate outcomes.  Looking at such context, do you believe the Latin American countries will yield to U.S. anti-Cuba desires or do you think that the U.S will allow Cuba in the next Summit?  And if neither of these occur, what will happen to U.S-Latin American relations?


1 comment

  1. President Obama should be angry at the State Department and National Security Council for their failure to creatively address the issue of Cuba’s participation and avoid his embarrassing isolation in Cartegena. He still has an opportunity before the election campaign to show that he can rise above the dead end of current US policy. He could initiate serious bilateral negotiation to obtain the release of Alan Gross and when that is achieved remove Cuba from its absurd listing as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

    John McAuliff
    Fund for Reconciliation and Development

    P.S. for people in the New York area, a very unusual opportunity:

    Eusebio Leal Spengler is the Historian of the City of Havana and director of the restoration program of Old Havana, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. Mr. Leal will present an overview of his work in Havana and preview work that is being planned for the future. After this introduction, Kent Barwick, President Emeritus of the Municipal Arts Society, will engage Mr. Leal in a conversation regarding his work and the arts in Havana. A question and answer period will follow.

    This program is presented by the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs. It is free and open to the public.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2012, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
    Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, South Court Auditorium, New York Public Library

    [In Spanish with English interpretation.]

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