By Pablo Bachelet | Reuters
WASHINGTON, May 19 — A United States-backed statement condemning human rights violations in Cuba was withdrawn on Monday at the Organization of American States after failing to garner enough support from its members.
Canada, Chile and Uruguay, the countries that introduced the statement, opted against forcing a potentially divisive vote at an institition with a strong tradition of reaching decisions by consensus.
Instead, they took the unprecedented step of re-submitting the text, which expressed ‘‘deep concern about the sharp deterioration of the human rights situation in Cuba,’’ as a non-binding statement to the group’s Permanent Council.
Sixteen of the OAS’s 34 members signed on to the revised statement, reflecting how sharply divided the OAS is on the Cuban issue.
The three-hour debate culminated an effort by the United States and other nations to pass some kind of condemnation of President Fidel Castro’s communist island, even though the OAS has been historically reluctant to take on the issue after Cuba was ejected from the Permanent Council in 1962.
The OAS effort began after Cuban authorities sentenced 75 dissidents to long prison terms and executed three men for hijacking a ferry in a failed bid to rech the United States.
An earlier April 23 effort by the United States, Nicaragua and Costa Rica to present a stronger resolution that would have carried more legal weight than a simple statement, also failed to obtain enough support.
On April 28, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had urged OAS members to ‘‘live up to the ideals we share and take a principled stand for freedom, democracy and human rights in Cuba.’’
Brazil and Venezuela led the opposition against the statement, arguing that Cuba was not a Permanent Council member and therefore could not defend itself.
The Venezuelan ambassador Jorge Valero warned that the statement would ‘‘heighten differences and tensions that exist in the hemisphere’’ and urged the OAS to debate Cuba in an ‘‘integral way’’ by including a discussion on the U.S. economic embargo against the island.