OAS meeting strays from violence agenda, focuses on relations with Cuba

May 29, 2009

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras – One little island of under 11.5 million people has dominated the discussion of a meeting between dozens of heads of state and government officials this week.

Though the theme of the 39th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) was intended to be violence in the Americas, many Latin American leaders directed their comments to relations with Cuba.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya called for a repeal of the 1962 resolution that suspended the group´s relations with Cuba as a result of its communist ties, saying that if this assembly fails to do so, member countries would be “accomplices to a mistake made 47 years ago.”

Much of the criticism was directed at the United States, which expressed resistance to the idea of Cuba rejoining the regional group without instituting democratic reforms.

Former first lady and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called for a change in Cuba´s political structure like that of El Salvador this week, when presidencies peacefully changed hands between right-leaning Antonio Saca and left-leaning Mauricio Funes.

“We believe it is in the best interests of the Cuban people and our region (for Cuba) to be more integrated in the region,” Clinton said. “We think that there is an opportunity for Cuba to be more involved, but at the same time, we want to see the peaceful transfer of power that we saw this morning (in El Salvador) possible for the Cuban people.”

She pointed out current President Barack Obama has done more in the last four months to improve U.S.-Cuba relations than has been done in the last eight years.

In a directive issued in early April, Obama called on U.S. telecommunications network providers to establish connections between the two countries, sought to ease rules against family travel to and from Cuba and pressed for the removal of restrictions on money that can be sent to Cuban family members (TT, Apr. 3).

Tuesday´s criticism followed another blow the United States received late last month, when Venezuela and Ecuador threatened to leave the OAS and proposed the creation of a new organization without the United States.

Foreign ministers ended the first session of the two-day assembly by creating a working group aimed at assessing the suspension levelled against Cuba.

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