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Let’s sum-it up: Cuba stole the show

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Mika Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-26-09 10:47 AM
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Let’s sum-it up: Cuba stole the show
Let’s sum-it up: Cuba stole the show
Cruising to the Fifth Summit of the Americas in my capacity as both columnist and an academic who has spent the better part of my life analysing the Cuban phenomenon, I was both overwhelmed and secretly delighted that even in absentia, the socialist isle managed to steal the show.

For an entire weekend, Cuba took centre stage both inside and outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Indeed, Cuba continued to dominate the discourse up to the end when it would become the main bone of contention amongst leaders who refused to sign the Final Declaration of Port-of-Spain.

US/ALBA overtures

Even before the Summit, Cuba was at the forefront of the foreign policy agenda of several countries including those with divergent ideologies such as the United States and members of ALBA. Just a week before embarking to Trinidad and Tobago, President Barack Obama made good on his campaign promise to abolish restrictions on family travel and remittances to the island.

The ALBA countries met just one day before the Summit at Cumana, Venezuela and had rejected the Port-of-Spain Declaration since April 17, as the ALBA summit ended and the Summit began in T&T. ALBA decided then, not to endorse the declaration because it fails to address the global economic crisis, excludes Cuba and lacks a regional consensus on demanding an end to the US embargo on Cuba. The refusal of those countries to sign the final declaration of Port-of-Spain should have really come as no surprise.

Championing Cuban

Argentine President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the first to speak at the Summit’s opening session, urged President Obama to lift Washington’s “anachronistic blockade against Cuba.” Next, Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, would also champion the Cuban cause in a 50-minute diatribe lashing out at the US-imposed isolation of Cuba’s communist regime. “They’re absent from this meeting… Cuba, whose crime has been that of fighting for independence, fighting for sovereignty of the peoples. I don’t feel comfortable attending this summit. I cannot feel comfortable by being here. I feel ashamed of the fact that I’m participating at this summit with the absence of Cuba.”

Caricom chairman and Belizean Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, then announced, “We have made it clear at every summit that the formal inclusion of Cuba into the mainstream of hemispheric affairs remains a priority for us. We are convinced now that the new US administration fully understands the need for new approaches in a new era, which will lead to changes including the lifting of the embargo. “We in Caricom stand ready to assist in the promotion of the dialogue between our two neighbours in the complex process of rebuilding a relationship and reversing 50 years of non-engagement.”

Prime Minister Patrick Manning asserts that “the Government of Trinidad and Tobago looks forward to the day when Cuba is fully embraced into the folds of the Inter-American family.” Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, denounced the document as “totally de-contextualised, as if time hasn’t passed,” and complained specifically about its characterisation of Cuba as non-democratic. “Where is there more democracy, in the United States or in Cuba? Who has the democracy meter? ... I have no doubt that there is more democracy in Cuba than in the United States.”

Although US President Obama, pledged to seek a “new beginning” in ties with Cuba affirming that “I do believe that we can move US-Cuban relations in a new direction,” he is not prepared to put his money where his mouth is with regard to lifting the US trade embargo on Cuba. Indeed, any future change in US Cuba policy would be conditional as he insists “Castro should release political prisoners, embrace democratic freedoms and cut fees on the money that Cuban-Americans send back to their families.”

Democratic power brokers

On the surface, Obama’s position on Cuba may seem a moral one, but it may actually be more political as he too panders to US domestic interests comprising a new configuration of democratic power brokers in South Florida and members of Congress. In Washington, both Democrats and Republicans insist on actions, not just rhetoric, from Cuba. “Release the prisoners and we’ll talk to you. ... Put up or shut up,” declares South Carolina’s Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham.

Moreover, powerful interest groups in the US are not prepared to tolerate socialism. Even before he returned to Washington, Obama was facing condemnation from some Republicans about his overtures to Chavez. The Nevada Republican Senator, John Ensign, encapsulates the sentiment: “I think it was irresponsible for the president to be seen kind of laughing and joking with Hugo Chavez.” Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, assumes a more pragmatic stance. He affirms that “those who wish a quick readmission of Cuba to the OAS or other Inter-American institutions are unrealistic. Cuba’s re-entrance as a member of the OAS will take more time, it will require a step-by-step, incremental approach.”

He continues that “whatever the approach taken, it will have to be principled because the adopted Inter-American democratic charter by 24 member-states in 2001 provides only one measuring stick when it comes to democracy, elections, human rights and governance…Many speak for Cuba, its people and government, but it is time to hear from the Cubans themselves!”

Thus, despite the heightened optimism and conciliatory stance of the leaders at the summit, further change in US/Cuba policy and full engagement of Cuba in hemispheric affairs may be much longer in coming than we think.

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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Apr-26-09 03:24 PM
Response to Original message
1. What an ugly little man Lindsey Graham is.
I wonder if Raul Castro has a list of political prisoners we should release. Maybe he can help us get the Patriot Act rescinded. This could turn out well for everybody. :)
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-27-09 07:55 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. LOL! nt
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roody Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-27-09 09:05 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. We can start with 5 of course.
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Apr-27-09 09:09 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Yes. But we have so many, I was hoping that Cuba would demand
we free more of them.
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