Growing opposition to Cuba’s exclusion
By Gloria La Riva
March 16, 2012
As this article was being prepared for publication, Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa announced he will not attend the Summit of the Americas. “Personally I am not willing to go back to participating in these summits, where there is no debate about the problems of the Latin American peoples,” said Correa at a press conference March 15 in Ankara Turkey .
He is boycotting the summit because of the U.S. refusal to allow Cuba to participate
“In our region we have very serious problems, but these are never discussed in those summits. The embargo that the U.S. imposes on Cuba; that is never discussed, nor the British occupation of the Malvinas Isles.
“I will be frank. I like the United States because I studied there, but I cannot accept that one country excludes another. It seems terrible to me and I don’t want to hurt my U.S. friends if I say that the Latin American peoples don’t accept any more for those type of summits to be organized.”
The sixth “Summit of the Americas” will convene April 14-15 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, with 34 heads of state from North and South America, to discuss various economic and political themes affecting the region.
All the countries of the Western Hemisphere will be present, except one: Cuba. For the sixth time that the summit has met, the U.S. government has forced Cuba’s exclusion. This year, several progressive governments, members of the ALBA alliance, threatened to boycott the conference if the socialist island nation were excluded.
On March 8, after host country Colombia announced there was “no consensus” for Cuba’s invitation, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla held a press conference.
“This is no surprise, it has been the chronicle of an anticipated exclusion,” stated Rodríguez. “With enormous disrespect for Colombia, for Latin America and the Caribbean, the U.S. spokespersons from the first had decreed the exclusion of Cuba. …
“Cuba never asked to be invited to any of the so-called Summits of the Americas, it never did in the past, nor for this one. We simply responded that, if we were invited with equal conditions, and with full and equal rights, we would act with principles and with truth, respectfully as we always have.”
Rodríguez also remarked, “These summits, like the Organization of American States, notoriously, have only served for the United States to exercise its domination. The most recent events prove this.”
Cuba excluded since the first Summit
Since the hemispheric summit was first convened in Miami in 1994, the U.S. government has exerted pressure on other states, to make it clear that Cuba would not be welcome, and cannot be invited.
Washington fears that its objective of promoting its imperialist interests across the hemisphere—through free-trade agreements and military expansion—will be impacted by Cuba’s presence.
Cuba’s influence and prestige has grown considerably in the Americas in the last two decades, with its successful advocacy of mutual economic cooperation among some of the most oppressed countries. Various Latin American and Caribbean countries have joined together to resist U.S. policy.
One major development was the formation of ALBA in 2004. Known as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, ALBA was established as an alliance of countries to promote mutual economic and social cooperation. The core initiating countries were Cuba and Venezuela. Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines have since joined ALBA. Honduras was a member until the U.S.-backed right-wing coup of June 2008.
Major ALBA campaigns have largely wiped out illiteracy in Venezuela and Bolivia with the work of Cuban teachers. Cuban and Venezuelan doctors have conducted medical operations on hundreds of thousands of vision-impaired poor people in Latin America and the Caribbean to restore their sight. Petroleum from Venezuela has been provided to Cuba and other Caribbean islands in exchange for goods and services.
ALBA runs directly counter to Washington’s interests of super-profits and domination.
Indeed, the fourth Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in November 2005, was a major defeat for the U.S. attempt to aggressively impose the super-exploitative “Free Trade Area of the Americas” trade agreement. Thousands of Latin American and other activists joined for a “Peoples Summit” nearby to counter the U.S. agenda.
‘Bury the FTAA’
President Hugo Chávez famously declared to a rally of 50,000 people at the conclusion: “We have come here to bury the FTAA!”
This year, Washington’s dictates met with resistance by the ALBA states, who demanded that Cuba not be excluded from the summit.
On March 1, with typical U.S. imperialist arrogance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that “there is absolutely no intention” of inviting Cuba to the Summit.
It was not for the United States to decide, at least not officially. As host country, Colombia had the prerogative. Colombia’s Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguín announced that Colombia would seek consensus among the other countries before making a decision. In previous years, Colombia would likely have sided outright with the U.S., without hesitation.
But with the threat of boycott by ALBA and growing support from other Latin American states for Cuba’s inclusion, Colombia’s President José Manuel Santos felt obligated to travel to Cuba on March 7 to meet with Cuban leaders Raúl and Fidel Castro.
In his March 8 press conference, Rodríguez responded to the idea that a discussion would take place behind closed doors during the summit about Cuba’s future participation, saying: “[T]hat does not interest Cuba. It is not acceptable for Cuba that a private meeting among the governments of the United States and Latin America and Caribbean states take up this theme in our absence.
“Latin America does not accept that anymore and it is constructing a project of sovereignty and regional integration, which the United States cannot stop, although it will try to do so. The presence of Cuba in Cartagena, from a distance, cannot be hidden.”