From Punta del Este to Panama: An End to Cuba´s Exclusion

Abr 09, 2015

Barack Obama was only four days old when the Heroic Guerrilla Ernesto Che Guevara publically denounced Washington´s hostile policy against Cuba during an Inter-American Summit, while reiterating Fidel Castro´s desire to dialog in order to solve the differences in an equal footing and carry out secret talks with the US envoy.

Half a century later, US President Barack Obama took on the challenge of approaching its Caribbean neighbor, overcoming confrontations, ill feelings and mutual tensions and begining a process of normalizing relations between both sides.

The US President will come to face to face with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro during the 7th Summit of the Americas scheduled for April 10th and 11th in Panama City.

Che Guevara spoke at the OAS Inter American Economic and Social Council on August 8th, 1961 as a representative of the Cuban government. The guerrilla accompanied Fidel Castro in the struggle against the Batista dictatorship that became victorious on January 1st, 1959.

The meeting carried out in Punta del Este, Uruguay, was Cuba´s last participation in an inter-American event after the Caribbean nation was expelled from the Organization of American States, a decision officially lifted in June of 2009.

During the Punta del Este Conference, the United States formulated the Alliance for Progress, a proposal made by then President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) which he launched months prior and created to counter the influence of the Cuban Revolution in the region after the failed mercenary attack at the Bay of Pigs in April of 1961.

On August 17 meanwhile, the Argentinean-Cuban rebel carried out a confidential meeting in Montevideo, with Richard Goodwin, Kennedy´s special envoy for Latin American Affairs, considered by Cuban sources as the first direct high level contact between both governments since the rupture of diplomatic relations in January of 1961.

Five days later, the White House expressed in a communiqué that the talks were only a casual meeting during a cocktail in which Goodwin limited himself to listening.

Since then, bilateral history registers several failed attempts to come together until 2006 after Fidel Castro stepped down as President and Raul Castro took over the country and announced alongside his counterpart Barack Obama on December 17th the beginning the process towards re-establishing diplomatic relations.

This will be Obama´s third participation in the Summit since 2009 in which Cuba had been excluded up until now and it is the result of a diplomatic strategy thanks to the support and solidarity of the region.

Cuban political analyst Carlos Alzugaray stressed that we must take in to account the growing autonomy of the regional nations, saying that "the United States has lost the initiative and maneuverable space" south of the Bravo or Grande River.

After the first Summit of the Americas in 1994 held in Miami, the events exhibited a different Latin America after the US backed Free Trade Agreement of the Americans representing the first decade of the forums.

Argentina and other South American nations, rejected the US and Canada attempt of imposing the FTAA in the agenda during the 4th Summit of the Americas held in Mar del Plata, Argentina in 2005. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (1999-2013) called on the nations to turn the meeting into the "tomb of the FTAA".

To counter the Summit's objectives, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro created the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in December of 2004 with the participation of Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) was born later with the idea of favoring a more harmonious, equal and integral development for the region, made up by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela.

With the exception of the United States and Canada, all of the regional nations became members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). This forum included Cuba in its entity without the presence of the US and Canada.

With this new international scenario that includes Cuba; Alzugaray adds the internal transformations underway carried out by the government of President Raul Castro to update its socialist model of development and the "global changes with the growing presence of China, and Russia in the region".

But the Summit in Panama, called on to formally satisfy the regional demand of ending Cuba's exclusion to the event with the participation of the 35 independent States in the continent and which gave way to the process of normalizing ties between Havana and Washington, will have to take a detour and focus its attention to the current US policy against Venezuela.

Obama issued a decree on March 9th declaring Venezuela headed by Nicolas Maduro as a threat to US national security and imposed sanctions to some of its representatives in a measure that has been condemned by the majority of the Latin American countries.

The General Secretary of UNASUR and former Colombian President Ernesto Samper said that "no country has the right to judge the conduct of another and much less impose unilateral sanctions or punishment".

Alzugaray added that "in those conditions, it will be very difficult for the US to articulate a strategy towards the region that would take into account the interests of Latin America and the Caribbean".

He added that he believes Obama made a "serious mistake" prior to an event that would have been a re-encounter with the hemisphere. The region, he said, will overwhelmingly support Cuba and Venezuela.

Taken from AIN