OAS: For Brazil’s Lula, Cuba Is Not the Ugly Duckling Anymore

Raul Castro and Lula Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called the unanimous decision by the Organization of American States (OAS) to void the 1962 resolution that excluded Cuba from that body as a victory for the Latin American people and Cuba. 

"I don't even know if Cuba wishes to come back to the OAS. They might not want it, anyway, they aren't marginalized anymore," Lula told reporters during a press conference in Costa Rica.

In response to other question, over if the decision strengthens the OAS, the president came back to talk over Cuba's entity exclusion during more than 40 years.

For the Brazilian leader the decision showed that common sense has finally prevailed: "Because nobody managed anymore to explain, nobody managed to understand anymore, how we could have a meeting of countries of the Americas while Cuba was not present, as if it were an ugly duckling."

Once again Lula urged the United States to lift its embargo to Havana: "Today, there no explanation in any part of the world for the Cuba embargo. The next step is to eliminate this ban little by little until everything comes back to normal."

Brazilian Foreign minister, Celso Amorim, also celebrated the OAS's Decision. "I was very pleased with the resolution approval because  it shows that common-sense is still alive."

Thanks to a suggestion from Brazil, it's been created a working group to implement the reintegration of Cuba to the OAS.

The OAS, lifted its 47-year suspension of Cuba on Wednesday following a consensus agreement which contemplated Washington's position and those of the Havana regime supporters who wanted a return with no conditions.

The 34-member hemispheric body, meeting in Honduras, unanimously and by acclamation scrapped a 1962 decision at the height of the Cold War that barred Cuba as revolutionary leader Fidel Castro took it toward communism and an alliance with the Soviet Union.

The administration of US President Barack Obama has taken steps toward a more open relationship with Cuba, lifting restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba for Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island.

Regarding the Cuban issue, the Obama administration has said Havana should be allowed to return to the OAS if it complies with democratic responsibilities such as releasing political prisoners and makes progress on human rights.

However Havana's staunchest allies instead called for Cuba to be allowed back in from the cold with no conditions, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came under heavy pressure at the OAS meeting. In effect she left for Egypt on Tuesday without having reached a consensus on the issue.

On Monday she participated in the taking office of the new Salvador president Mauricio Funes who's first decision was the resumption of diplomatic relations with Cuba interrupted for decades, leaving the United States as the only country in the hemisphere with no normalized links with Havana.

But in a last minute diplomatic compromise, the group's member countries agreed that Cuba's re-entry would be "the result of a process of dialogue begun at the request of the Cuban government and in line with the practices, purposes and principles of the OAS", a direct reference to the organization's stated mission to defend democracy and human rights in the Western Hemisphere.

"We removed a historical impediment to Cuba's participation in the OAS, but also established a process of engagement with Cuba," US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon said.

"The Cold War has ended today here in San Pedro Sula. We have made a wise and honorable decision," said Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

"We are ending an anachronism, an injustice, a discrimination that dates back to the Cold War," Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana told delegates.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Fander Falconi speaking for the hardliners (Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua) said that the agreement "doesn't call for any kind of conditions".

But in spite of all the enthusiasm Cuba has repeatedly said it has no interest in returning to the OAS. Before the OAS vote, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro described the body as an "accomplice" to crimes against Cuba, including a US economic embargo.

The OAS move could allow Cuba to request loans from the Inter-American Development Bank although it was not clear if it would first have to apply for membership or if the lifting of the suspension would be enough.

According to diplomatic sources in Honduras the final resolution stroke a balance between Washington's insistence on "democratic responsibilities" and Havana's close allies demand that "fundamental instruments related to security, democracy, self determination, non intervention, human rights and development" be also underlined, as was collected in the preamble.

It also makes reference to the new dialogue spirit born out of the recent Americas summit in Trinidad Tobago that should help to establish "a broader and revitalized cooperation in hemispheric relations.

This is followed by a first article revoking Resolution VI from January 31st, 1962 which excluded Cuba from the Inter American System and the second which says that "the participation of Cuba in OAS, will be the result of a process of dialogue begun at the request of the Cuban government and in line with the practices, purposes and principles of the OAS".

Five Proposals

Before leaving to the Middle East to joint president Obama, Clinton said that no consensus had been reached on re-admitting Cuba to the Organization of American States, which suspended the country in 1962 in response to its alliance with the Soviet block in the midst of the Cold War.

Mrs. Clinton made the comment Tuesday as she wrapped up a day of negotiations in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where Foreign Affairs ministers from the 34-member OAS have been holding their General Assembly.

Clinton, said Cuba had to meet certain responsibilities before it could rejoin the OAS. She said Cuba must release political prisoners and improve basic rights first.

Earlier, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya urged that the resolution suspending Cuba's membership be revoked. He told the gathering of foreign ministers it is time to correct what he called "that mistake".

Mr. Zelaya said failure to rescind the suspension would make Latin American nations "accomplices" in the decision.

The US stance has left it increasingly isolated as most Latin American countries have restored diplomatic ties with Cuba and pushed for an end to the decades-old US embargo.

Other OAS members, including Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela, have described Cuba's exclusion from the OAS as a "mistake." Cuba, for its part, has said it has no interest in resuming its OAS membership but would consider lifting the ban a "most welcome gesture".

A task force named last week to help work out a consensus on the Cuban issue was unable to come with a solution and five different proposals were presented for consideration of ministers in the second day of discussions on Wednesday.

Basically even the Obama administration favors the full return of Cuba to the OAS fold but with "democratic" responsibilities. The US position is supported by Canada.

"We do look forward to the day when Cuba can join the OAS, but we believe membership in the OAS comes with responsibilities, and we owe it to each other to uphold our standards of democracy and governance that have brought so much progress to our hemisphere" said Secretary Clinton. "This is not about reliving the past. It's about the future and being true to the founding principles of this organization".

In his opening speech OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said that "principles which make to the essential values of the organization are involved in the debate: inclusiveness and democracy as enshrined in the OAS charter. We shouldn't be afraid to discuss the issue, but recalling the past, reaching a consensus must come first. We want to advance, to progress and leave behind a past which for many is not positive, and we must not again fall in divisions".

Another proposal came from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Peru and was an attempt to bridge the positions of those who want the return of Cuba with no conditions and those that insist with the "democratic responsibilities".

El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize and Costa Rica sponsored a draft resolution on procedures, which was presented to the Inter-American Judicial Committee to consider the International Law repercussions of the readmission of Cuba.

Honduras called for a lifting of sanctions but linked future relations between Cuba and the OAS to the "manifest willingness" of Havana to sustain them.

Finally Venezuela and its allies, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador wanted the annulment of resolution 662 and the immediate readmission of Cuba and also demanded that the OAS apologize for the "ignominious and anachronic" expulsion of Cuba. The Havana regime would then decide if it returns to the OAS or not.

Bzz/Mercopress

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