MANAGUA – The historic decision by the Organization of American States (OAS) to reverse the 47-year-old ban on Cuba’s membership is mostly symbolic and won’t have much impact on international affairs, according to Nicaraguan analysts on both sides of the political spectrum.
Sandinista sources say the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a leftleaning bloc to which Nicaragua and four other countries belong, will continue to move forward on plans to form “an alternative OAS” that excludes the United States (NT, Dec. 19, 2008) – a proposal the opposition dismisses as “illusionary.”
After a belabored debate between the United States and ALBA, the OAS reached an unexpected consensus May 3 to reverse a 1962 ban on Cuba’s membership (TT, June 5). Cuba has since turned down the invite.
Though the decision was widely celebrated as a victory for dialogue and regional consensus-building, the move probably won’t translate into any significant geopolitical change, analysts say.
Sandinista political analyst Aldo Díaz Lacayo said the decision represented the “U.S. finally accepting reality, because they have no other option.” Still, Díaz said, the move won’t save the OAS from irrelevance – a conditioned, he says, that’s like a patient who is “half-alive and half-dead.”
“This doesn’t represent any change in the OAS, which was never the problem in the first place,” the former ambassador told The Nica Times. “The problem is U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America.”
President Daniel Ortega agrees. Speaking at the May 3 OAS meeting in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Ortega, one of the only presidents to attend the ministerial-level meeting, called the decision a “cleansing of one stain only” in U.S.- Latin American relations. He urged the United States to take the next step and lift the 47-year-old embargo on Cuba.
Ortega said that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has not delivered on its promise for change and instead represents the same foreign policies “inherited” from predecessor George W. Bush. “There is one country that is isolated from the concert of the Americas, and that is the United States, which hasn’t normalized relations with Cuba and maintains an economic embargo,” Ortega said.
Ortega said the OAS has done “no favor to Cuba” by reversing the ban. “Cuba didn’t ask for this,” he noted.
Indeed Cuba has said it has no intention of rejoining the OAS. Germán Sánchez, Cuba’s Ambassador to Venezuela, told Venezuelan TV that the OAS “an anachronistic system that is against the interests of our people.” He added, “There’s no point in Cuba entering something that is practically a cadaver.”
While the Sandinistas insist the key to real change in hemispheric lies in the hands of the United States, opposition analysts say it’s Cuba that needs to make the next step.
Carlos Tünnermann, a former Nicaraguan ambassador to the OAS in the 1980s who has since broken with the Sandinista Front, said for the winds of change to keep blowing in the region “everything depends on Cuba.”
However, Tünnermann added, Cuba is unlikely to ever rejoin the OAS because that would mean adhering to its Democratic Charter and other democratic norms, which he says would imply a series of political reforms that are unlikely as long as Fidel Castro is still alive.
Despite disagreeing over whose move is next, both Sandinista and opposition analysts agree that the OAS decision alone is unlikely to lead to any significant geopolitical shift in regional relations.