June 4, 2009 in Nation/World

OAS ends ban on Cuba

Resolution comes with conditions
Tracy Wilkinson Los Angeles Times
 
Tags:cuba

MEXICO CITY – The Organization of American States on Wednesday repealed its 47-year suspension of Cuba, jettisoning a legacy of the Cold War and promising to further the communist island’s integration into the region.

The decision also underscored Washington’s diplomatic isolation where Cuba is concerned and ups the pressure on the Obama administration to normalize relations with the government of President Raul Castro. The U.S. is the only nation in the hemisphere that does not have diplomatic ties with Cuba.

“The Cold War has ended this day …” Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said after the resolution was adopted by the 34-nation organization. “We begin a new era of fraternity and tolerance.”

Cuba, however, has said it is not interested in re-joining the OAS, which it sees as little more than a tool of Washington.

And the OAS resolution continues to set conditions for Cuba’s full participation: the Castro government would have to request re-entry, which would come as a result of a “process of dialogue” in the spirit of OAS “practices, purposes and principles.”

That language, while vague, appears aimed at appeasing the U.S., which had resisted lifting Cuba’s suspension and argued Havana should be first required to make democratic reforms.

Wednesday’s decision makes a strong statement about the importance that Latin America and the Caribbean attach to better economic and political ties with Cuba and to ending its isolation once and for all. Many countries hold Cuba as a litmus test for President Barack Obama’s stated eagerness to improve relations with the region.

“Latin America and the Caribbean want to fully integrate Cuba into the region and end its exclusion from various regional forums; they’re tired of it,” said Phil Peters, Cuba analyst for the Lexington Institute, a think tank near Washington. “For eight years with (President George W.) Bush they’ve felt like they were talking to a brick wall, and now with Obama they think they have a chance to speak up and get things done.”

The decision Wednesday came at the conclusion of the OAS’ regular General Assembly meeting in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, with the foreign ministers or secretaries of state from 34 countries in attendance, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton had departed Honduras before the final resolution was agreed upon and after what were reported to be long and fruitless negotiations to reach consensus on Cuba. In the end, the resolution was approved unanimously, with the U.S. delegation citing the conditions that it contains.


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