Wednesday, June 03, 2009

OAS votes to readmit Cuba


The representative of Trinidad and Tobago Lenny Saith and the Coordinator of the OAS Luis Alberto Rodriguez, take part in the 39th General Assembly of the Organization of American States in San Pedro Sula, 250 km north of Tegucigalpa. The Organization of American States on Wednesday reached an agreement to readmit Cuba, excluded since 1962, Ecuador's foreign minister Fander Falconi said.
(AFP/Orlando Sierra)


June 3, 2009 - 3:25 p.m.

By NESTOR IKEDA, Associated Press Writer

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – (AP) The Organization of American States announced Wednesday it has revoked a 1962 measure suspending communist Cuba, reversing a landmark of the Cold War in the hemisphere.

"The Cold War has ended this day in San Pedro Sula," said Honduran President Manuel Zelaya immediately following the announcement.

The action was taken "without conditions," declared Ecuador's Foreign Minister, Fander Falconi, but it does set mechanisms for Cuba's return — including its agreement to comply with OAS conventions on human rights and other issues.

"This is a moment of rejoicing for all of Latin America," Falconi told reporters after the session. The decision was taken by consensus, meaning the United States accepted it.

Many countries pushed to readmit Cuba without preconditions, but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had urged the OAS to require that Cuba made democratic reforms and improve respect for human rights.

Cuba's government, however, has repeatedly said it has no interest in returning to the 34-member organization, which it calls a tool of the United States.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro wrote in state newspapers on Wednesday that OAS should not exist and historically has "opened the doors to the Trojan horse" — the U.S. — to wreak havoc in Latin America.

The U.S. won Cuba's suspension from the hemispheric body in 1962 as Cuba's government veered into the Socialist bloc. But in recent years, with the tensions of the Cold War fading, Cuba's isolation melted away. Every country in the hemisphere except for the United States has re-established relations with Cuba.

Membership in the OAS gives a country a voice in hemispheric agreements on major issues. The OAS has often tried to mediate solutions to political conflicts and it has offshoots that coordinate health policies and protect human rights.

Clinton left Honduras before the final vote, saying that the organization had been unable to reach consensus on Cuba. The meetings dragged on so long she did not even have time to deliver a prepared speech of 1,500 words before flying out of Honduras to join U.S. President Barack Obama in Egypt.

The Obama administration has hoped its recent overtures to the Cuban government would overcome widespread resentment in the Americas over Washington's long history of isolating Havana.

Clinton spent much of Tuesday pressing OAS members to agree to a formula under which the organization would rescind its 1962 suspension of Cuba but tie its return to democratic reform.

"A number of countries were pushing hard for a simple resolution that would lift the suspension and nothing else, (but) we have been making the case that that is not in the best interests of the OAS," Clinton said.

In doing so, Clinton highlighted the administration's outreach to Cuba over the last four months, noting it had lifted restrictions on money transfers and travel to the island by Americans with family there and was resuming long-stalled immigration and postal service talks.

In her prepared statement for Tuesday's closed session, she acknowledged that "in the past, the U.S. has sometimes taken a counterproductive approach to domestic affairs within the hemisphere that created mistrust and suspicion," according to a copy given to reporters.

But she allowed that the U.S. was "pretty much by itself" in making the demands. She claimed to have made steady progress in convincing moderate nations of their importance to the group's credibility.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said the United States is continuing to use the OAS as "an instrument of domination" and that Cuba's suspension was due to the support of former conservative Latin American dictators who were "used by the Yankees."

At a news conference the Sandinista leader accused the Obama administration of being no different from previous administrations. "The president has changed, but not American policy," Ortega said.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya called Cuba's suspension, and the U.S. embargo on the island, a "day of infamy" and a grave injustice. "Friends, it is time to correct that mistake," he told the meeting.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report.

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JG: Non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations is the only rational and civilized way to conduct international affairs. Uncle Sam better get used to that fact.

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