By Bill Faries and Matthew Walter | Bloomberg
The Organization of American States scrapped a 1962 resolution that suspended Cuba from the group as the U.S. fell short in an effort to require Raul Castro’s government to meet democratic standards before being invited back.
Representatives of the OAS’s 34 member countries reached the agreement by acclamation during a plenary session of the group’s general assembly in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Delegates applauded and gave a standing ovation after the decision.
“This is an important message to the entire world,” Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said. “We’re entering a new era of brotherhood and friendship.”
Cuba, the only country in the hemisphere that isn’t a democracy, was suspended from the multilateral body because of its links to the Soviet Union and communism, and Latin American leaders have been urging President Barack Obama to renew U.S. ties to the island. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday as she was leaving the summit that she couldn’t muster support for a U.S. proposal to allow Cuba’s membership to go forward only after the country met democratic standards.
“In terms of what Clinton said she wanted, the U.S. failed,” said Susan Purcell, director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami. Purcell said she expects Latin American governments and U.S. lawmakers to step up efforts to end the U.S.’s 47-year-old economic embargo.
Clinton issued a statement after the OAS decision today saying that Cuba still needs to meet the OAS’s standards for democracy and human rights before it can reclaim membership.
“I am pleased that everyone came to agree that Cuba cannot simply take its seat and that we must put Cuba’s participation to a determination down the road, if it ever chooses to seek re- entry,” Clinton said. “Many member countries originally sought to lift the 1962 suspension and allow Cuba to return immediately, without conditions.”
The Washington-based OAS is a forum for countries of the Western Hemisphere that discusses issues of democracy, human rights and poverty, according to the organization’s Web site.
Today’s agreement makes the 1962 suspension “null and void” and says Cuba’s participation in the organization “will be the result of a process of dialog initiated by the Cuban government and in conformity” with the principles of the OAS, according to a translation of the document in Spanish.
“We are ending an anachronism, an injustice, a discrimination that dates back to the Cold War,” Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana told delegates.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told reporters the OAS decision shows that “common sense is still alive.”
Obama’s administration has relaxed restrictions on family travel and remittances to Cuba put in place under President George W. Bush and initiated talks on migration and direct mail links between the two countries.
“From the Latin Americans’ point of view, they didn’t care about that,” Purcell said. “They want the embargo lifted. The things that Obama did were seen by Latin Americans as not terribly relevant.”