At a University of Miami seminar, leaders urged the OAS to explore a role in Cuba’s transition to democracy and to be vigilant about human rights abuses.
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
More than two dozen foreign dignitaries Saturday joined a call in South Florida for the Organization of American States to make Cuba’s transition to democracy one of its top priorities.
The University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies took advantage of the OAS’ annual General Assembly, being held in Fort Lauderdale today through Tuesday, to organize a seminar on how the 34-hemispheric bloc can play a constructive role in Cuba’s future.
‘‘It is high time [the OAS] addresses the issue of Cuba and Cubans,’’ said Martin Palous, the Czech Republic’s ambassador to Washington. ``If anything can come out of this general assembly . . . it is [that] Cuba is part of the American discussion. It would be a tremendous boost for Cuban freedom fighters.’‘
A dozen Latin American and European leaders have already signed a three-page declaration on Cuba passed around at the seminar and urging the OAS to ``consider how it can play a constructive role in helping a future Cuban democratic transition government rejoin the hemispheric family of democracies and rebuild its political, legal, economic system.’‘
In addition, the resolution urged the OAS’ Inter-American Human Rights Commission to remain vigilant on Cuba’s human rights situation and help its people.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who chaired the opening session, said the document is a positive step in the Cuban people’s fight to end decades of suffering under Fidel Castro’s rule.
``It’s progress to have them sign a paper that acknowledges there are problems in Cuba and acknowledges they all have to work to get to the goal of freedom and democracies.’‘
Other participants included former presidents Luis Alberto Lacalle of Uruguay, Luis Alberto Monge of Costa Rica, Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Eduardo Frei of Chile.