Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gen. McCaffrey Calls for New Approach

A new approach to Cuba

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Obama administration has made an excellent first step to eliminate some restrictions on travel to the island, to loosen constraints on remittances and to re-engage in migration talks. Positive, multiple lines of engagement are clearly the way forward. Broader contact and leverage with Cuba through additional commercial and people-to-people contacts will in time help promote a more pluralistic, less impoverished, and more open society.

While President Obama's incremental changes in policy toward Cuba are positive, they are also insufficient. Now is the time for decisive and rational efforts to bring Cuba back into full engagement with the economic and political dynamics of the Americas.

For starters, we're still a lot closer to the status quo than to the decisive break from past policies, which is where we need to be. The status quo is a loser. The long-term U.S. government policy of isolating the Castro regime has failed to bring about either democracy or regime change. Cuba has broken out of the box and created well-established diplomatic and economic relations with a range of international partners -- China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, and members of the European Union. The Castro regime has successfully survived multiple economic and natural disasters (e.g. ending of Soviet economic support) at significant cost to its people.

Second, there are both economic and security incentives for moving forward. The Cuban state has been unable to meet the economic and democratic aspirations of the Cuban people. Cuba must double their economy within the coming decade. Its ability to do so, always doubtful given the regimented dullness of that Marxist state, is in greater question now, lashed as its economy has been by last year's horrendous storms and the continued battering of the global financial crisis. The hard-liners here who are counseling that we tighten the noose now in hopes that we'll break the regimes back would allow average Cubans to suffer mightily, put our security interests at risk with a massive boatlift, and turn the rest of the region against us for decades. Strangulation is no solution.

Political transitions from authoritarian to democratic regimes have successfully occurred in Latin America and Eastern Europe following decades of dictatorship. The poor Cubans will almost have to start from scratch in building the political institutions that are essential to good governance and participative policy making. Continuation of ineffective and punitive U.S. diplomatic and economic policies will not accelerate political transition on the island. In fact, this failed strategy of political isolation is used by the Castro Regime as a rallying point. The United States has become the raison d'etre of this regime's continued defense of its failed experiment with a directed, authoritarian, socialist state.

It's time for a realistic policy shift on Cuba. In my judgment, Congress and the administration should move to:

• Remove Cuba from the State Department list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. The poverty of ideas and resources forced the Cuban government to end its ineffective support of revolutionary movements long ago.

• Repeal enforcement of the ''Helms-Burton'' legislation. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton signed provisions allowing for waivers of the outmoded law's provision.

• End the economic embargo on Cuba. Market forces should determine the level of trade between our nations.

• End U.S. restrictions on travel by American citizens to Cuba. There are no similar restrictions to other non-democratic nations, including North Korea.

• Close the detention facility at Guantanamo and return the base to Cuban sovereignty. The place has become an international embarrassment to us.

• End the ''Wet Foot/Dry Foot immigration policy'' and treat illegal immigrants from Cuba as we do those from Mexico or any other country.

• Formalize coordination on anti-drug trafficking matters with Cuba's law enforcement and security forces.

• Provide significantly increased funds to the U.S. Agency for International Development so that we can support economic development as democratic political transition inevitably occurs in Cuba.

• End U.S. opposition to Cuban participation in the Western Hemisphere multilateral fora (lifting Cuba's suspension from the OAS was a good start) because diplomacy and engagement, not shunning, will open Cuba to liberal political ideals.

We should not doubt that there will be an eventual political transition in Cuba. Change is now inevitable as Castro edges off the stage of history. The critical issue for the United States is whether we are going to be a constructive guiding agent in this process of change.

The United States has enormous power to unilaterally change policy toward Cuba and shape the agenda of change. We do not have to negotiate with the Cuban government to modify the ways we deal with illegal migrants from the island. Modifying punitive economic and travel policies should not be viewed as making concessions to an authoritarian regime. Instead, they should be viewed as a belated recognition that our past policies were ineffective and will not promote democratization in Cuba. Obama is uniquely positioned to take these decisive steps and he should do so.

Barry R. McCaffrey is a retired Army general and an adjunct professor of international affairs at West Point; he served as U.S. drug czar from 1996 to 2001.

©2009 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


Saturday, June 6, 2009

China Reports Cuba Won at OAS

Cuba wins OAS diplomatic battle
www.chinaview.cn 2009-06-05 12:47:02

HAVANA, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Cuba has won a major diplomatic battle against the United States at the Organization of American States (OAS), when the organization revoked a resolution issued 47years ago to exclude Cuba, although the island country said it will not return to that mechanism.

The 1962 resolution to exclude Cuba from the OAS was revoked on Wednesday during the 39th OAS General Assembly held in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

The document revoking the resolution, at the beginning, was agreed by a special group of 10 ministers and then it was presented to the delegates from the 34 member countries by Honduran Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas.

Cuban authorities said on Thursday in a communiqué broadcasted by local TV that the OAS decision was a "historic rectification."

"In a historic day..., the OAS General Assembly derogated without conditions the resolution that excluded Cuba from that organization," the communiqué said.

"Cuba has not requested (rejoining the OAS) and it does not want to return to the OAS... But it recognized the political value, the symbolic significance and the rebellion of this decision boosted by the people's governments of Latin America," the communiqué said.

The official daily "Granma" said on Thursday that "Fidel (Castro) and the Cuban people will be absolvent by history," when mentioning the words of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at the General Assembly.

The newspaper also carried remarks by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who said the revocation "leaves without effect the expulsion of Cuba, it cleans a spot over the organization."

Cuba was excluded from the OAS in 1962 after most of the member countries, under the pressure from the United States, agreed that Cuba's socialism was incompatible with the principles of the Inter-American system.

At the end of 2008, a number of Latin American leaders, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Nicaragua's Ortega, Bolivia's president Evo Morales and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, requested the reentry of Cuba to the continental political dialogue.

The issues was discussed at the 5th Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad and Tobago in April, but due to disagreements between the United States and Latin American countries, participants agreed to bring the issue to the General Assembly in Honduras.

Despite the revocation, some Cuban experts believe the discussion of Cuba at the OAS itself showed there are no common interests in the region and that it is necessary to form a Latin American and Caribbean organization.

But experts agree that it is a recognition of the "dignity and strength" of Cuba for 50 years of the Socialist Revolution.

The main loser of the battle is the United States, which failed to block the process of revocation.

With the door open for Cuba to rejoin the OAS, experts say, the next step is expected to be the lifting of the U.S. embargo against Cuba, which was imposed some 50 years ago.

Panamanian Prediction that Cuba Will Enter OAS

Cuba to Join OAS After ‘Emotion’ Passes, Blades Says (Update1)

By Fabiola Moura and Eric Sabo

June 5 (Bloomberg) -- Cuba will rejoin the Organization of American States after “a lot of emotion” passes, said Ruben Blades, tourism minister in Panama, a member of the Washington- based group.

“There is a lot of emotion right now in the world,” Blades, also a six-time Grammy Award winning singer, said in an interview in New York. “So it’s a matter of processing. Eventually we will see a different scenario in Cuba as we have seen everywhere else.”

Blades’s prediction is at odds with the latest statements by Cuban officials. Cuba said yesterday it won’t seek to rejoin the OAS after the group of Western Hemisphere nations lifted its 47-year-old suspension, saying the OAS is irrelevant.

The OAS decision June 3 reflected a compromise between Latin American leaders, eager for President Barack Obama to lift its trade embargo against Cuba, and the U.S., which has pressed the communist nation to carry out democratic reforms.

The resolution stipulates that the communist country must still re-apply for membership and meet OAS standards for democracy and human rights.

Blades, 60, who plans to resume his musical career after leaving his post June 30, said he is hopeful the Obama administration will improve U.S. ties with Latin America after the country committed “a lot of mistakes in terms of the way it handled foreign policy” in the region.

‘Good Agenda’

“I do believe he is going to be able to create a good agenda for Latin America,” Blades said in the interview yesterday. “He managed to convey both proximity and at the same time authority” at the Trinidad and Tobago Summit of the Americas in April, he said.

The U.S. lifted all travel limits for Cuban-Americans visiting family in the island in April as well as restrictions on how much money they can send relatives there.

The OAS was founded in 1948. Cuba, the only country in the hemisphere that isn’t a democracy, has been excluded from OAS participation since 1962, according to the OAS Web site. The U.S. imposed an embargo on Cuba after Fidel Castro, who came to power in a 1959 revolution, expropriated land of U.S. citizens and companies and allied with the Soviet Union. Raul Castro succeeded his brother as president last year.

“The scenario in Cuba is going to change and the way we judge other societies is also going to change,” Blades said. “I don’t think that the invitation now for Cuba to join is just an empty gesture. It is the result of an evolution that has been occurring for decades.”

Presidential Run

Blades, who made an unsuccessful bid for president in 1994, said he doesn’t rule out running again. He served as tourism minister the past five years.

“Now I have administrative experience, which I did not have in 1994,” Blades said. “Everything is a five cushion shot, you can have the ball in front of the hole but you can’t put it in there. This is the way bureaucracy is conceived.”

Blades, whose last album, “Mundo,” won the 2002 Grammy for world music, plans to go back to his musical career, after spending the last five years without playing the guitar at home.

“I can’t afford another five years,” said Blades, adding he is returning to the private sector after accumulating debt as a public official. “I’ve got to do some of my own things.”

The minister said he won’t take any official position in the next government but will help his successor, Salomon Shamah.

“I don’t split my passions, because it makes me half or a third of what I am,” Blades said. “I have to concentrate in order to carry it through.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Fabiola Moura in New York at fdemoura@bloomberg.net. Eric Sabo in Panama City at esabo1@bloomberg.net.
Last Updated: June 5, 2009 09:04 EDT

Friday, June 5, 2009

OAS Opens Doors to Cuba Without Conditions

By Thelma Mejía

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras, Jun 3 (IPS) - After heated debate, the 39th General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) decided Wednesday to lift its 47-year suspension of Cuba, without conditions.

At its meeting in Honduras, the OAS sought to "fix an historic error" committed when socialist Cuba was expelled in 1962 from the main forum for political cooperation in the hemisphere as a result of pressure from the United States.

The OAS resolution adopted Wednesday by consensus revoked the Jan. 31, 1962 decision to suspend Cuba on the grounds that its "adherence...to Marxism-Leninism is incompatible with the inter-American system."

Honduran Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas, one of the main architects of Wednesday´s resolution, said that "as of now, Cuba´s participation in the OAS will be reinstated by means of dialogue on Cuba´s request and in the framework of the democratic practices that govern the OAS."

"(A)s the host country for this assembly, we are pleased with the amends made to the island nation. We have begun to build a new history in our relations, of tolerance, respect, solidarity, the self-determination of nations and the right to organise ourselves," said Rodas.

After the resolution was read out, the ministers and other officials at the assembly gave a standing ovation.

The leaders taking part in the conference included Nicaraguan and Paraguayan Presidents Daniel Ortega and Fernando Lugo, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who left the assembly early to join President Barack Obama in Egypt.

The tense debate on readmitting Cuba completely overshadowed the main theme of the general assembly, "Toward a Culture of Non-Violence", while protests were held outside the convention centre where the two-day meeting took place in the northwestern Honduran city of San Pedro Sula

The demonstrators included anti-Castro Cubans led by dissident Huber Matos, a former ally of Fidel Castro, as well as supporters of the government of Raúl Castro belonging to social movements from Honduras and Nicaragua.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said Wednesday that "dialogue has prevailed and we are observing an historic event - the coming together again of the countries of the Americas, of which we are proud.

"I want to tell Cuban comandante (and former president) Fidel Castro that today history has done him justice, today the world has been given a lesson in international law, and we can proudly say that the Cold War is over in the Americas," added the centre-left leader.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon said "We removed an historical impediment to Cuba's participation in the OAS, but also established a process of engagement with Cuba, a pathway forward based on the principles, purposes, values and practices of the OAS and the inter-American system." After stating that the United States had reaffirmed its commitment to building good relations with its neighbours based on respect, dialogue and cooperation, he said the focus is now on the future, "rather than on having a stale 47-year debate." He hailed the decision as an important step for the future of the OAS because it will strengthen the hemispheric body, and said the United States worked hard to achieve a resolution backed by a broad consensus.

In a speech that received a one-minute ovation from the conference, he added that Obama had called for a new start to relations with Cuba, that the administration was gradually moving in that direction, and that he hoped negotiations would begin soon.

He also said that while the Obama administration had given out signals for change with Cuba, it would not stop defending democratic principles and respect for human rights.

Clinton said in a statement that "This outcome is in keeping with our forward-looking, principled approach to relations with Cuba and our hemisphere.

"We must now build on this success by meeting our goals with actions that move us beyond rhetoric to results, and advance the mission which each of our nations have pledged to pursue," she added.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Fender Falconí said the most significant aspect of the resolution was that it was adopted "without conditions of any kind, which is a good sign, because an historic error has been corrected."

Falconí told reporters that the consensus was reached "at the last minute after two days of continuous deliberations, when at least three different texts were discussed, until we found the right one...to keep the meeting from becoming a failure."

The representatives of Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica highlighted the vote by acclamation and the role played by the delegations of the United States, Mexico, Canada, Brazil and Argentina which, along with their counterparts from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Honduras, made every effort to hammer out a consensus agreement.

Several foreign ministers said it is now up to Cuba to decide whether it will join the OAS under the "democratic principles" outlined in the hemispheric body´s charter.

Cuba has often stated that it is not interested in joining the OAS, which Raúl Castro said in April "should disappear."

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said last week that "the OAS is totally anachronistic. It serves other interests.''

In 1962, 14 countries voted in favour of suspending Cuba, and there were six abstentions - Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico - and only one vote against, cast by Cuba.

Later resolutions slapping OAS sanctions on Cuba only received two-thirds support.

"The people of the Americas are celebrating that this blotch against Cuba has been wiped away and that justice was done to Fidel Castro and the Cuban people," Honduran trade union leader Carlos Reyes told IPS.

In an opinion column published Wednesday in the Cuban state press, before the OAS resolution was announced, Fidel Castro praised the signs of "rebelliousness" by the countries that advocated Cuba´s full return to the hemispheric body. (END/2009)

Text of OAS Resolution and US Draft

Unofficial text; taken from English simultaneous translation as read to the Assembly of the OAS, 6/3/09, prior to unanimous vote of acclamation.

The General Assembly, recognizing the shared interest in the full participation of all the member states, guided by the purposes and principles of the OAS, embodied in the Charter of the organization and its other fundamental instruments related to security, democracy, self-determination, non-intervention, human rights and development;

Considering the open mindedness that characterized the dialogue of the heads of state and government at the 5th Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain; and that in the same spirit the member states wish to establish a revitalized and ample framework of cooperation in Hemispheric relations;

And bearing in mind that, pursuant to article 54 of the OAS charter, the General Assembly is the supreme organ of the organization, resolves

1) that resolution 6 adopted on January 31st 1962, at the 8th meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs which excluded the government of Cuba from its participation in the inter-american system hereby ceases to have effect in the Organization of American States. (55 seconds of applause)

2) that the participation of the Republic of Cuba in the OAS will be the result of a process of dialogue initiated at the request of the government of Cuba and in accordance with the practices and purposes and principles of the OAS


Original US Draft

Resolution of the General Assembly


(Presented by the United States)


The shared interest in the full participation of all Member States;

That some of the circumstances since Cuba's suspension from full participation in the Organization of American States may have changed;

The spirit of openness that encouraged dialogue among the heads of state and government at the V Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, and that, consistent with that spirit, the Member States desire to establish a period of renewed hemispheric relations;

That frank and open dialogue is one of the hallmarks of multilateral relations between sovereign states and between sovereign states and multilateral organizations;

Recalling the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which are instruments universally applicable to all Member states, as well as the American Convention on Human Rights and the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance; and

Taking into account, in accordance with article 54 of the Charter of the Organization of American States (OAS), that the General Assembly is the supreme organ of the OAS;


1. To support the interest of the Member States in facilitating the eventual reintegration of Cuba into the Inter-American system in a manner that is consistent with the commitments, principles and values of the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and other instruments.

2. To instruct the Permanent Council to initiate a dialogue with the present Government of Cuba regarding its eventual reintegration into the inter-American system, consistent with the principles of sovereignty, independence, non-intervention, democracy and full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as enshrined in the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and other OAS instruments.

3. To instruct the Permanent Council to present the results of the dialogue prior to the next General Assembly.

4. To review the report of the Permanent Council at the next General Assembly and determine what, if any, steps could be taken towards the eventual reintegration of Cuba into the inter-American system, in a manner consistent with the spirit of consensus that governs the institution.

5. To reaffirm our will to act in accordance with our commitments to the fundamental principles of the inter-American system.

Guardian story on OAS Assembly

Organisation of American States decides to readmit Cuba
Pan-regional body rebuffed the US and revoked 47-year-old cold war measure

Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
Wednesday 3 June 2009 23.08 BST

The Organisation of American States tonight lifted Cuba's half-century-old
suspension in a dramatic decision to bring Havana back into Latin America's
diplomatic fold.

The pan-regional body rebuffed the United States, which lobbied against the
move, and revoked a 1962 cold war measure which had marked the communist
island as a pariah.

"The cold war has ended this day in San Pedro Sula," said Manuel Zelaya, the
president of Honduras, who hosted the 34-member organisation in Honduras's
second city.

Dozens of foreign ministers from the Caribbean as well as central and South
America stood to applaud when the announcement was made at the end of the
two-day summit. "This is a moment of rejoicing for all of Latin America,"
Ecuador's foreign minister, Fander Falconi, told reporters.

Cuba said it had no interest in rejoining the OAS, which Fidel Castro this
week called a "Trojan horse" for US interests, but the opening of the door
was a diplomatic victory for Havana and exposed Washington's isolation.

Much of Latin America once considered Castro an anachronistic despot but
since the 1990s the "maximum commandante" has won respect as an elder
statesman and symbol of Latin American nationalism. Only the US still lacks
diplomatic relations with the island.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said Havana should not be
readmitted until it made concessions on democracy and human rights, a line
echoed by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch which said political
prisoners and repression continued under President Raul Castro.

Those arguments were swept away by largely leftist governments who thought
the organisation had been beholden to Washington for too long. "The vote to
readmit Cuba to the OAS represents an unprecedented assertion of Latin
American power in a hemispheric institution long dominated by the US," said
Daniel Erikson, an analyst at the Inter-American Dialogue thinktank and
author of The Cuba Wars.

Washington recently softened its economic embargo against Cuba - a
controversial policy enshrined the same year the OAS suspended the fledgling
Castro government - but that was not enough to appease Latin leaders
demanding bolder steps.

"The vote sends a powerful signal to the Obama administration that the path
of moderate, incremental change in US policy towards Cuba is depleting
America's political capital in the region at an alarming rate," said

Latin leaders gave Obama a rapturous reception at an April summit in
Trinidad and Tobago, his regional debut, but today's decision showed a
steely resolve to stand up to the "gringo" superpower which is considered to
have bullied the region for over a century.

The US had hoped to engineer a compromise which would hinge Cuba's entry on
the condition it met OAS democratic requirements. Instead, isolated and
outnumbered, the US was cornered into a consensus agreement which said Cuba
could rejoin after a "process of dialogue" in line with OAS "practices,
proposals and principles".

A US state department spokesman put a brave face on the outcome and said the
US had dissuaded other members from automatically readmitting Cuba. "The
historic action taken today eliminates a distraction from the past and
allows us to focus on the realities of today."

In contrast to its diplomatic shine, Cuba's economy darkened this week.
Government austerity measures cut fuel and food rations in response to
tumbling government revenues.

Post OAS spin by Clinton, Shannon and Restrepo


OAS Resolution
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
June 3, 2009

The member nations of the OAS showed flexibility and openness today, and as a result we reached a consensus that focuses on the future instead of the past: Cuba can come back into the OAS in the future if the OAS decides that its participation meets the purposes and principles of the organization, including democracy and human rights. Many member countries originally sought to lift the 1962 suspension and allow Cuba to return immediately, without conditions. Others agreed with us that the right approach was to replace the suspension – which has outlived its purpose after nearly half a century – with a process of dialogue and a future decision that will turn on Cuba's commitment to the organization’s values. 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 reentry. If and when the day comes to make that determination, the United States will continue to defend the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter and other fundamental tenets of the organization. This outcome is in keeping with our forward-looking, principled approach to relations with Cuba and our hemisphere.
We must now build on this success by meeting our goals with actions that move us beyond rhetoric to results, and advance the mission which each of our nations have pledged to pursue: strengthening good governance, democratic institutions, an unwavering commitment to fundamental human rights and freedoms, and the rule of law — the underpinnings of democracy and the founding principles of this organization.


June 4, 2009
VAN SUSTEREN: We talked about the travel. I know you've been to Honduras. The OAS, after you left -- it looks like Cuba's going to be invited back in.
CLINTON: No, that wasn't the outcome.
VAN SUSTEREN: It wasn't the outcome? What happened?
CLINTON: Well, we were very adamantly opposed to those who wanted to lift the 1962 suspension and leave it at that. That was not acceptable to the United States. That's, unfortunately, the path that they were on earlier. And we made the case to many countries and found a receptive audience that we could agree to lift something from so long ago that was really part of the cold war, but we had to reaffirm the values and principles of the OAS. We had to explicitly reaffirm democracy and human rights. And then we had to have a process.
So yes, you can lift the suspension, but that's the beginning, that's not the end. Then Cuba has to decide whether it wishes to become a member of the OAS. And then the OAS must, according to its practices, purposes and principles, enter into a dialogue with Cuba and make a decision.
So this was the beginning. Unlike what some had hoped, to have a kind of fait accompli, we were able to create a consensus that the majority of countries in the OAS agreed with the United States.
VAN SUSTEREN: So we haven't been snubbed.
CLINTON: Oh, not at all. In fact, this was a very good example of the kind of diplomatic engagement that we want to be involved with. Now, of course we had to make the case, and I did it very vigorously with many of my counterparts, that we believed that we needed to do exactly what I said. We couldn't throw over the OAS, throw over democracy and human rights, which we have worked so hard on in the hemisphere, but we would welcome changes by the Cuban government. We really want to see the Cuban people brought back into the hemisphere and be part of what we hope will be a more prosperous and progressive future.


The OAS Ministerial in Honduras
Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.
Assistant Secretary
Special Assistant To The President and Senior Director For Western Hemisphere Affairs at The National Security Council Dan Restrepo
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Briefing Via Teleconference
Washington, DC
June 3, 2009

MR. AKER: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today for a read-out of the results of the OAS Ministerial in Honduras, which has just concluded. We have with us today Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Tom Shannon and Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council Dan Restrepo. We’ll start out with a statement by Mr. Restrepo.
MR. RESTREPO: Thank you very much. And thanks, everybody, for getting on this call this afternoon. We just wanted to get you all up-to-date on what has happened here at the OAS General Assembly.
Today has been a historic day for the inter-American system. You’ve seen two things occur in a resolution passed by consensus by the organization, one that leaves without effect the 1962 suspension of the current government of Cuba from participation in the OAS, and second that establishes a path forward that has multiple steps to it, beginning with whether the Cuban Government asks to come back to the organization or not, a question that may be complicated for that government given what it has been saying about the organization in recent weeks and actually throughout the last 40 years, but a process that is clearly enunciated on the face of the resolution that it has to be in accord with the basic principles, purposes, and practices of the OAS, which itself is defined in the resolution to be based on the OAS Charter and other fundamental instruments that defend democracy, self-determination, non-interference, human rights, development, and security.
So what we’ve seen today is really a testament to the hard work of multilateral diplomacy. A couple of weeks ago, if you had stopped and asked all the countries in the Western Hemisphere what they wanted to do with the 1962 resolution, they would supported a three-line resolution doing – lifting the 1962 resolution and allowing Cuba to automatically return to the OAS. The United States and other countries from various parts in the hemisphere fought, defended, and prevailed in saying that this was not an automatic process, that yes, let’s leave an argument of the past in the past, let’s not become prisoners of the past, but let us ensure that we are defending the basic principles of democracy and human rights and non-intervention and non-interference as the path forward to Cuba’s return to the organization.
Simply put, for Cuba to return to the organization, the organization has to agree that Cuba is abiding by the same rules that everybody else is abiding by. That is a historic achievement. We think it is an important day that reflects a policy that listens to the concerns of the region with respect to lifting the ’62 suspension and defend the core principles of the Americas shared by the United States, all in defense of ensuring that they are shared by and enjoyed by all the people of the hemisphere, including the people of Cuba. So instead of being focused on an argument that is nearly 50 years old that has done little to advance the cause of freedom for the Cuban people, we can return to the focus to today, to the realities of today, and to the realities of the issues not just in Cuba but throughout the Americas.
MR. AKER: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, do you have any additional comments?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: No, I think we can go to questions.
OPERATOR: If you would like to ask a question, please press *1 on your touchtone telephone and please clearly record your name when prompted. One moment for the first question, please.
The first question does come from Patricia Mello (ph) with Estado. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, Dan. Hi,Tom. My question is I would like to understand what exactly changed in terms of the U.S. agreeing on a consensus decision to revoke the suspension.
MR. RESTREPO: I’m not exactly sure I understand the (inaudible). The United States agreed to do what we said all along, that we would stand by the basic principles of the organization, defend those principles, and seek a consensus – seek to build a consensus with partners from throughout the hemisphere around that premise; that the lifting of the ’62 suspension would not – did not mark the automatic return of Cuba to the organization. That is a position we staked out. We’ve been consistent about, and that we rallied support with the help of countries from throughout the region and throughout the hemisphere.
And I think it’s important to note that last night there was a document on the table when conversations ended, seemingly in an impasse, when the country – the ALBA countries would not accept the text, that there was generalized consensus around. This morning, without changing a word, they came around to join the consensus that had been formed under the leadership of the United States and other country – other important countries throughout the hemisphere.
QUESTION: So I’m sorry, just to follow up. The consensus demands that Cuba adopts democratic causes and there are some demands?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: I mean, as it stands right now, the resolution makes very clear that the process by which Cuba must follow in order to reenter the OAS, requires first that Cuba request permission. Secondly, that it enter into a dialogue with the relevant organs of the OAS, and that that dialogue and the decision rendered by the OAS must be in accord with the practices, purposes, and principles of the OAS. And the resolution makes very clear that the fundamental instruments and documents in the OAS, like the Inter-American Democratic Charter, will be the guiding documents as the OAS engages with Cuba.
So as Dan noted, what’s important here is we’ve lifted an historical impediment while facing up to the challenge of today, which is how do you – how does the OAS, an organization committed to democracy, relate to a country that is not democratic? And how does the OAS and the inter-American system, which is characterized by open societies and market-based economies, relate to a country that has a closed society and a closed economy? And in this regard, as Dan noted, the OAS has remained true to its core principles and purposes. And this was the result of leadership by the United States and by our partner countries, but especially by Secretary Clinton.
And I’d like to highlight the fact that the resolution that was approved today was based on a resolution presented by Secretary Clinton yesterday, following extensive conversation and negotiation with a broad range of partners. And so it is the product of a collaborative dialogue with key partners around the hemisphere. And it was such a powerful document and such a powerful coalition of countries that those countries that felt uncomfortable with aspects of it, ultimately were not able to change it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Jill Dougherty, CNN. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi, it’s Elise – actually, it’s Elise Labott. We’re trading out.
I think what is a little unclear is when some senior State Department official spoke to us last week, we were under the impression that you didn’t want the resolution – you wanted the resolution that kind of formulated a dialogue with Cuba about its future in the organization, but you did not want to rescind. You weren’t ready to rescind this kind of edict. And what some of the other member countries were saying was, even if you do kind of lift this, you know, official ban, the long-time ban that was from the Soviet era, it wouldn’t mean that Cuba would get back into the organization anyway, because it still had to meet the fundamental principles of a democratic charter. So it does seem to be that you’ve moved on this issue. And I’m just wondering what it was that made the United States comfortable signing onto this resolution, because as of last week you didn’t seem so comfortable with the idea.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: Elise, this is Tom. And since I think I was that senior official, I think I could respond to this question.
QUESTION: Well, I didn’t know if we’re on the record here so I just didn’t want to –
MR. AKER: Yes, we are on the record.
QUESTION: Yeah, so I didn’t want to hang you out to dry, Tom. (Laughter) But now you’ve hung yourself.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: But listen, first of all, I think – I think I would kind of rephrase, you know, how you described what we talked about the other day. Because I think if you went back and looked at the transcript, I think what’s clear is that, number one, we want a forward approach on Cuba, not a backwards approach on Cuba. And – because ultimately, you know, what the region made clear to us in our talks that had been ongoing for quite some time is that they wanted to find a way to deal with Cuba that wasn’t based on Cold War instruments or decisions that the OAS had taken, but instead was is based on the current instruments related to democracy, to human rights, to self-determination, non-intervention, security, and development.
And what the President made clear in Trinidad and Tobago is that we want a new relationship that is a forward-looking relationship, and one that is based on the future of the Cuban people, the well-being of the Cuban people. So in this regard, I think we accomplished our core goal, which, again, was not to defend a resolution that is 47 years old, but instead to recognize that as we try to construct a new relationship with Cuba, we have to help the rest of the region construct a new relationship.
QUESTION: So – but it sounds over the last couple of days that you have softened your approach to this. I mean, would it be fair to say that after consultations with your hemispheric colleagues that you – that, you know, it was a compromise that, you know, as long as the organization kind of made clear that it was going to stick to the fundamental principles of the charter, that you were comfortable signing on to this resolution?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: Well, again, you know, multilateral diplomacy is like several-dimensional chess. It requires acting on several different levels, but it requires a lot of cooperation, a lot of dialogue, but it also requires precision as we work through resolutions and language. And obviously, we wanted to make very clear that we were listening to the region, and that the relationship the President had promised in Trinidad and Tobago, one of collaboration and dialogue, was going to be made real here. And so we were prepared to listen to the concerns expressed and to try to accommodate them in a reasonable way. But ultimately, for us, the bottom line has always been democracy and individual human rights.
And it’s important to understand also that aside from the Cuba issue, what we were able to accomplish here is, number one, get the ALBA countries to commit to broad instruments that they (inaudible) – like the Inter-American Democratic Charter. But also we were able to strengthen the OAS as an institution, because one of the broad – the bigger fears going into this is that a breakdown in talks here was going to provoke divisions in the different sub-regions of the hemisphere, but also within the OAS. And what we have done, I believe, is strengthen the OAS as an institution, and that is an important goal.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Carol Giacomo with The New York Times. Your line is open.
QUESTION: My question has to do with the fact that I still don’t see how you go forward here. If Cuba were to say tomorrow, “We want to be members of the OAS, “there are a lot of countries in the OAS who would immediately vote to include them. How – I mean, I understand that you – you know, you reference the charter and the other standards of the OAS that reflect democracy and human rights. But I mean, what if Cuba were to hold elections tomorrow and then come back to you and say, “Well, we held elections,” I mean, would that be enough of a marker to get them in? I mean, it’s not spelled out. That’s my question.
MR. RESTREPO: I think when you review the text of the resolution, you’ll see that a process is laid out. The process begins with what is a difficult decision for a Cuban Government that has spent 40 years railing against an institution because of its defense of democracy and individual human rights. They would have to swallow that to ask to get into the organization. And then a process consistent with the manner in which this organization functions, its practices, but more importantly, its principles and purposes, as defined in this resolution itself, would be the guide to its participation in the organization. I mean, those are clearly enumerated. There is reference to the fundamental instruments of the organization, and to democracy, security, human rights, self-determination, non-intervention, and development.
So there is a clear process here. There are practices that guide how the organization operates. One of those very important practices is the practice of consensus, and we have seen in this process how consensus can work. It can address the concerns of members while staying true to the basic principles that we have defended throughout this process. That’s what we saw and that culminated here today. The work on how we go forward and how we focus on policies and approaches that support the Cuban people’s desire to freely determine their own future is where our focus is, rather than having a stale 47-year-old debate.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from Arshad Mohammad with Reuters. Your line is open.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you to respond to a statement from Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who says, quote, “Rather than upholding democratic principles and fundamental freedoms, OAS member-states, led by the OAS Secretary General, could not move quickly enough to appease their tyrannical idols in Cuba. Today’s decision by the OAS is an affront to the Cuban people and all who struggle for freedom, democracy, and fundamental human rights,” close quote.
MR. RESTREPO: I think the important thing to underscore of what happened today is that in a – as a result of effective diplomacy, the United States and other partner countries through the region converted a situation where the OAS may have been on the verge of a four-line resolution that simply lifted the 1962 suspension and extended open arms to a government that does not abide by the basic principles that are at the core of our values and the values of the system. Instead of that result, we have a result that lays out a process that specifically refers to the fundamental instruments of this organization of democracy, human rights, self-determination, and other enumerated rights that are precisely the rights that this Administration is working to advance and defend in Cuba and throughout the Americas. This is a day – a positive day in the process forward on the issue of supporting the desire of the Cuban people to freely determine their destiny, like the people in our country and throughout the hemisphere get to do on a regular basis.
OPERATOR: The next question comes from James Rosen with Fox News. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Gentlemen, thank you for conducting this conference call on, apparently, short notice. You’ve both made clear repeatedly just in the course of this conference call that at various points along the way – three weeks ago and even yesterday – we were, as Dan just said, on the verge of a four-line resolution that would have agreed to readmit the Cubans with no conditions placed. And at the same time – and that that would have been, as you would agree, in contravention of OAS’s own charter, practices, principles, purposes. And yet they were ready to do it at various points. We were on the verge.
And now you’re telling us that they’ve passed a resolution which, if and when the Cubans do seek readmission, requires some demonstration from the Cubans to the satisfaction of these very same people who were prepared to act this way, that they’re suddenly on the right path.
So my question is: What gives you confidence that if and when that day comes and the Cubans seek re-admission, that the same feckless characters who were on the verge of a four-line resolution but for our strenuous intervention won’t prove similarly feckless in regard to their own practices, purposes, charter, and so forth?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: Excellent question, a several-part answer.
First, most of the countries around the table wanted (inaudible) as part of the consensus. They recognized at the end of the day this decision about Cuba had to be something that strengthened the OAS and not weakened it. And when we made very clear that our commitment to the core principles of the OAS was not up for negotiation, then these countries realized they had to find a way to work with us in a fashion that protected those principles. And that – that was an important moment, number one.
Number two, as we got deeper into this discussion, many of the countries we worked with realized that the short form of the resolution raised more questions than it answered, and that ultimately the members of the negotiating teams of the different countries began to explore just what a short resolution would mean. And ultimately, they were uncomfortable with it and they recognized that the resolution really needed two parts, one part being lifting the suspension. The second part being – describing the process by which Cuba would seek readmission if it wanted to, and what purpose, practices, and principles would guide it.
So again, this is all about diplomacy. It’s all about working with countries to help them understand their own interests and values, how those interests and values are tied into a larger multilateral network. And in this regard, I think the active participation of Secretary Clinton, the active participation of many high-ranking officials in our government, was vital in getting this message through.
MR. RESTREPO: I think one other thing that’s important to note is that the United States remains committed to defending these principles. And I think what we have done through this process is it strengthened our hand in that defense. We’ve rallied other countries behind us, put them on record as standing up for these principles and this process as the guide forward. And so by engaging in a constructive dialogue and listening to their concerns, we made folks more open to our concerns. And that I think, at the core, is how this is a clear sign of the effective use of all the power of the United States, and here the diplomatic ability of the United States, to change the course of events that would not have served our national interests and our core values into one that strengthened our national interests and our core values, and the partnership that we have with important countries throughout the Western Hemisphere.
QUESTION: And just to follow up. In terms of crafting policy both unilaterally and multilaterally through this organization toward Cuba that is forward-looking and not backward-looking, what evidence or signs can you point to suggest that Cuba is likewise committed to that kind of forward progress under Raul Castro as far as we can see?
MR. RESTREPRO: That first thing, there’s one premise in your question that I’m going to have to challenge. It’s very important to separate the U.S.-Cuba bilateral relationship from the multilateral environment in which we found ourselves and which we find ourselves at the Organization of American States. The United States and President Obama in his Administration has been very clear about how he believes it is best to advance our national interests and support the Cuban people and the desire to determine their own future and to improve our relations with the Cuban people and to open a new era in bilateral relations. That remains the guidepost in the bilateral context. So I just wanted to make sure that that was very clear. And I think Tom had some on the rest of the question.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHANNON: Yeah. I mean, ultimately, as Dan noted, you know, we are pursuing effectively a two-track approach on Cuba. One is to enhance people-to-people contact and ensure that we are looking ways for improve the well-being of the Cuban people and increase their capacity to have a meaningful voice in determining their national destiny.
The second track is a government-to-government track it – that then is determined to see whether or not we can have a dialogue with Cuba across areas of mutual benefit and interests. We have made a proposal to Cuba on migration talks and direct mail talks. The Cuban Government has agreed to both of those. It has also suggested that we need a broader and more comprehensive dialogue. These are good signs. But ultimately, we are going to determine in the course of our engagement both in our effort to help the Cuban people and in our effort to establish some level of dialogue with the Cuban Government whether or not they are as future-oriented as we are.
MR. RESTREPO: And one last thought, as the President said at the summit in Trinidad and Tobago, he is open to a new relationship, a new era in relations between the United States and Cuba. He’s not interested in talk for the sake of talk and that this is about actions. This is a process that will take time. It will be hard. And I think to underscore that we’re not interested in talk just for the sake of talk, this week is an example of where talk was a very effective tool to advance our interests and get – and reach an outcome that defends the core principles that we have stood by and that we stand by and that we’ll continue to stand by, by getting an outcome that makes very clear that the return of Cuba to the OAS is not an automatic event at this point, but one, a process that leads – that is founded and grounded in the core principles like democracy and human rights. So I think that’s a clear example of where talk is a very effective mechanism of advancing our national interests.
OPERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
MR. AKER: Thank you. We have -- we’re about out of time. We have, at most, time for one final question.
OPERATOR: And the last question does come from Jesus (inaudible) with (inaudible) magazine. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. Dan, I have a quick question for you on – if I understood – he wants to respond. There’s already reaction in Capitol Hill. Some members of the Republican Party are proposing legislation to suspend the money that the U.S. give to the – the U.S. give to the Organization of America States. What the Obama Administration is going to do in order to stop this kind of action by the Republican Party, who obviously are not happy with this decision?
MR. RESTREPO: This decision is a couple of hours old. I think upon time and reflection, people will recognize that we did exactly what we stated we would do here, which was stand up for the core values of democracy and human rights, and to make Cuba’s eventual return to the organization (inaudible) to make process consistent with the practices, principles, and purpose of the OAS which are in the resolution itself defined to be embodied in the OAS charter and other fundamental instruments (inaudible). We all know that those other fundamental instruments in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
And so I believe upon further (inaudible) we will continue to work closely with Congress. We will consult closely with them and discuss this issue moving forward, because we all share the common goal, and that common goal is to see a day when the Cuban people get to decide their own future (inaudible) consistent with that enjoyed by people across the hemisphere (inaudible), which is what, ultimately, we want to see. And we believe we are taking steps in that direction. Rather than being rooted in an argument of the past, we are focused on the presence and the future. This is an important step in that direction and we look forward to working with Congress on this and many other issues of hemispheric concern.
MR. AKER: Thank you.
MR. RESTREPO: Thank you all very much for participating. And we will talk again soon, I imagine. Thanks.
MR. AKER: Thank you, everyone. And just a reminder – this is an on the record briefing. And in addition, I would like to point out that the Department of State will be issuing a statement on the results of the ministerial soon, so stayed tune. Good-bye, everyone.

OAS Speech by Tom Shannon

Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon’s speech at the OAS

Thank you very much for this opportunity to speak at this important and historic moment. I regret that Secretary Clinton is not here to make this intervention, but I am happy to do so in her place….

We also want to express our appreciation to the many countries around this table who have worked so hard to achieve consensus around this resolution. Statesmanship is a rare virtue. It requires maturity, vision and persistence. It also requires a clear headedness that avoids prejudice and rhetoric but instead attempts to build confidence and understanding while it fashions agreements. But statesmanship to be effective, to be an effective element in expressing our national purpose, must remain true to our fundamental values and interests.

Today’s resolution was an act of statesmanship. Today we addressed and bridged an historic divide in the Americas while reaffirming our profound commitment to democracy and the fundamental human rights of our peoples. We removed an historical impediment to Cuba’s participation in the OAS but also established a process of engagement with Cuba, a pathway forward based on the principles, purposes, the values and the practices of the OAS and the Inter-American system.

What we did today I believe also has to be understood as an action that affirms our commitment as a member of the OAS and as a member of the Americas to build a relationship with our neighbors and partners based on dialogue and collaboration. And finally today’s events also have to be understood as an important step forward for the OAS and as a resolution that fundamentally strengthens the OAS in the Americas.

I had an opportunity to speak with Secretary Clinton on her way to Egypt and she asked me to extend her congratulations to all present and she expressed her pride in having participated in this historic OAS General Assembly, especially her pride in participating in the working group that fashioned the text that became the document that we could agree on consensus. This is a text that was acclaimed twice, once in the meeting of heads of delegations and here today and it still sits in the style committee being worked and we look forward to its final redaction in accordance with the acclamation that took place in the meeting of the heads of dialogue; but her role in this and her ability to work with colleagues around this table and show that we all have this ability to create a broad consensus and a pathway forward is an important step. And I would like to recall that during her meetings with her colleagues and in her several interventions in the working group she reminded us that at the Summit President Obama called for a new beginning to the US-Cuba relationship; he lifted restrictions on family travel and remittances in Cuba. Two weeks ago he asked Cuba to restart migration talks, a request which Cuba has accepted, along with discussions on direct mail and we look forward to talks beginning soon. And as I noted at this Assembly, we have helped fashion and submitted the resolution that became the basis for today’s historic resolution.

Together these actions on the part of the United States signal the biggest change to our approach to Cuba in the last 40 years. We are not interested in fighting old battles or living in the past. We are committed to building a better people, a better future for all of the Americans, by listening, learning and partnership based on mutual respect.

At the same time we will always defend the timeless principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law that animate our societies and serve as a beacon for those around the world who are oppressed, silenced and subjugated. The United States looks forward to the day when a democratic Cuba rejoins the Inter-American system. Until then we will seek new ways to engage Cuba that benefit the people of both nations and of the hemisphere. We will continue to advocate for democratic governance in Cuba and throughout the Americas and the people of this hemisphere look to the OAS to do the same.

Our organization, the Organization of American States, represents a region covering more than a quarter of the earth. From the tundra of northern Canada to the Amazonian rain forests to the Pategonian ice fields, our citizens speak dozens of languages, celebrate many faiths and traditions and hail from every region of the world. But underneath our differences we are joined by geography, history, politics, economics, culture and family. Our futures and fortunes are linked.

Now we must stand together to affirm our shared values, face down common challenges and seek opportunities for the benefit of all our people.

Monday, June 1, 2009

FRD Press Felease on OAS Resolution

For Immediate Release
Fund for Reconciliation and Development
Dobbs Ferry, NY

Contact: John McAuliff, 914-231-6270, 917-859-9025

Administration Puts Partisan Spin on OAS Charters

“Editors should give serious attention to how reports of the OAS Assembly in Honduras characterize the debate on Tuesday and Wednesday regarding Cuba’s membership,” urged John McAuliff, the head of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, a New York based non-governmental organization that advocates normalization of Washington-Havana relations.

First, Cuba is still a member of the OAS. It was suspended, not expelled, in 1962 as the result of an intense and still-resented campaign by a US government more dominant than today. Justifications for suspension did not include internal democracy or human rights and are now moot.”

“Second, virtually all OAS members support ending Cuba’s suspension without conditions, not only more left-leaning governments.”

“Third, nothing in the OAS Charter, or subsequent documents, including the Inter-American Democratic Charter (IADC) precludes Cuba taking up full and active membership. The IADC is quite explicit about measures to be taken in the face of ‘unconstitutional interruption of the democratic order of a member state’, i.e. a military coup. It incorporates aspirations that all members be representative democracies with respect for human rights but does not affect restoring the status of an existing member with a different political orientation.”

“Fourth, the US embargo and forced transition agenda with Cuba seriously violate the OAS Charter, which is quite explicit that ‘No State...has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference...against its political, economic, and cultural elements.’" (Article 19, see also 3e and 20)

McAuliff concludes, “Secretary Clinton should abstain if the OAS votes on ending Cuba's suspension without conditions. She will demonstrate we are listening and serious about a new collaborative role, even if domestic politics bars joining the affirmative vote. Finally the Administration must show Sen. Menendez (D, NJ) that he cannot control US foreign policy with bluster and threats to cut off OAS funding.”

Additional background
from two American University professors here
and from FRD here and here

[The Fund for Reconciliation and Development was founded in 1985 to bring about normal US relations with Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and, in the last decade, Cuba. John McAuliff visits Cuba regularly, most recently in January and May of 2009.]