Cuba Never Asked to Attend Summit of the Americas By Patricia Grogg

Cuba Never Asked to Attend Summit of the Americas
By Patricia Grogg

HAVANA, Mar 9, 2012 (IPS) – Cuba never asked to be invited to a Summit of the Americas, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said in response to protests from some governments in the region at Havana’s exclusion from the meetings of Western Hemisphere leaders.Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Mar. 8 Rodríguez also said that the “consensus” to which Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos referred on a brief visit to Havana to discuss the issue depended on the U.S. government, whose spokespersons have once again ruled out Cuba’s participation in the event.On Wednesday, Santos visited the Cuban capital for a few hours to meet with President Raúl Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who is recovering from a second operation to remove a cancerous tumour. Cuba and Venezuela are founders of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA).

Presidents Rafael Correa, of Ecuador, and Evo Morales, of Bolivia, urged other leaders of ALBA member countries to boycott the 6th Summit of the Americas, set for April in Cartagena, Colombia, if the Cuban government is not invited. The ALBA bloc also includes Nicaragua, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In a press release, Santos said he “truly understood the Cuban government’s desire to be part of that meeting,” but that no consensus existed for an invitation to be extended. He also thanked the Cuban government for its “comprehension” and for “generously saying it did not want to create a problem for the Summit or for Colombia.”

“We all understand that the consensus depends on Washington’s authorisation,” Rodríguez said, reiterating that Cuba’s position was made clear during a Feb. 5 ALBA summit meeting in Caracas, which President Castro attended.

At the summit, Castro commented that he had “never” made demands like the ones that were being proposed, but that he supported the statements of Correa, Morales and others in “taking action to end Cuba’s exclusion, a position that we consider to be very just,” Rodríguez said, quoting the Cuban president.

The minister defended the ALBA countries’ position as “solid and unanimous” in also demanding that the issue be addressed in depth at the Cartagena summit. However, he opposed it being discussed in a closed-door meeting in Cuba’s absence.

According to Rodríguez, the ALBA foreign ministers will continue to discuss this situation to coordinate their actions, both within the bloc and with other Latin America and Caribbean governments, without exception.

“Latin America is no longer accepting that; it is building a project of regional sovereignty and integration that the United States cannot prevent, even if it tries. Cuba’s presence in Cartagena, from a distance, will be something that cannot be concealed, as was the case in 2009,” during the 5th Summit, held in Port of Spain, he said.

The regional context is favourable to Cuba in this case, since the December 2011 formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), according to Cuban analysts consulted by IPS.

“Havana will not be in Cartagena, but in 2013 it will receive from Chile, under the government of right-wing President Sebastián Piñera, the rotating presidency of that new integration mechanism, whose greatest virtue — for Raúl Castro — is its ‘independence’ from the United States,” one source said.

During the founding meeting of CELAC, Castro acknowledged that the leaders assembled there did not have a “fully homogeneous ideology,” and that they did not agree on all political positions, but that after accepting this reality, it was possible to work “in a climate of respect and cooperation.”

CELAC groups 33 Latin American and Caribbean nations with a total combined population of 580 million. The region holds important natural resources and is reporting strong economic growth rates, but it continues to have serious inequalities in the distribution of wealth, ending 2011 with 174 million people living in poverty.

In June 2009, the Organisation of American States (OAS) repealed by consensus a 1962 resolution that suspended Cuba’s membership in that bloc.

However, the Castro government rejected any return to the OAS, announcing that instead it would strengthen, expand and harmonise mechanisms for representative integration in the region, including the Caribbean island nations.

The Summits of the Americas began to be held in 1994 in Miami, as a political platform for the development of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), Rodríguez noted.

During the 4th Summit, held in the Argentine city of Mar del Plata in 2005, the FTAA proposal was buried by Chávez and former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner. (END)

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