Spanish – “Punta del Este, Punta del Este, what’s fallen on you is worse than the plague.” This is what Carlos Puebla’s song says, one of the famous ones of the revolutionary songbook.
Well, time is a lesson. “A Punta del Este” was composed about the meeting of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council held in August 1961. There, in the absence of Cuba alone, Kennedy launched the Alliance for Progress.
However, the song is usually associated with a later event. The following January, in a consultative meeting of foreign ministers, the OAS passed a resolution declaring Marxism-Leninism incompatible with the inter-American system, thereby excluding Cuba from the organization. It also occurred in Punta del Este.
The resolution suspended the country’s participation, but it did not expel Cuba. Its obligations under human rights instruments remained in force. In fact, the Inter-American Commission continued to publish reports on the situation on the island and also accepted petitions from Cuban nationals without interruption.
However, the Castro government spent the rest of the Cold War with its back to the OAS, the “Ministry of Colonies.” The reconcilement with Latin America occurred later due to oil resources and the alliance with Chavism. It resulted in a new alphabet soup of hemispheric international relations: ALBA in 2004, Petrocaribe in 2005, Unasur in 2008, the agreement was completed in 2011, and CELAC in 2010.
Note the dates, during the price boom, as well as the institutional design; the OAS was thought to become an irrelevant forum. Well, for the most part, they did it.
Especially under Insulza between 2005 and 2015, who did turn it into the “Ministry of Colonies,” but of Caracas. It weakened it, de-financed it, deviated from its principles, and hindered the fulfillment of its mission. Just bear in mind Chavez’s pressures and insults to the IACHR and remember who supported the Secretary-General. Fulfilling his role cost the then Executive Secretary of the Commission his job.
Thus, in 2009, the lifting of Cuba’s suspension was voted, and the island was offered readmission. The Cuban government thanked the OAS but declined the invitation due to the trajectory of the organization, “allied to the interests of imperialism.” The Castros are the champions of impostor pride and simulated dignity; the reasons are different.
Cuba could not be readmitted without having a multi-party democracy and respect for human rights, according to the founding documents of the inter-American system. All of which does not exist in a regime that is closer to monarchical despotism than to any other form of government.
“The peoples of America have the right to democracy,” says Article 1 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. “Not the Cuban people,” said the Castro dictatorship. To remain outside the OAS does not mean that the Cuban regime has ever been disinterested in it, quite the opposite. It is just that it has always operated behind the scenes, the classic G2 style, and the security apparatus.
A back-handed modus operandi of six decades, today is set in motion again in the election of the Secretary-General next March. The bet is to go against Luis Almagro, for which they have two candidates: one of majority and the other of the minority. One to destroy the OAS, the other to empty it of content and neutralize it. Cuban-style diplomacy: muddy the court without getting yourself muddy and diversify the risk.
This is how one candidate is Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Rafael Correa’s former Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs, ironically aligned with Havana. Correa goes on to say that the OAS should disappear. The other candidate is Hugo de Zela, a Peruvian diplomat and former Chief of Staff of Insulza.
The first is the Havana apparatchik. With the second in office, the OAS made a mess of blame with the Castros and Chavez managed to have an additional ministry in Washington DC. Castro and Maduro will win with either candidate.
It is surprising how alliances are progressively coming together. Take the case of Canada, allied to the Cuban and Peruvian strategies at the same time. The curious case of the Canadians: they are good people, and Latin America, therefore, owes them support for the people in exile during the dictatorships of the 1970s. But they are also good at taking care of their businesses, the tourism holding in Cuba, and the big mining in Peru.
Let us hope that it is not at the expense of those noble principles; raison d’etat, raison d’etre, as they would say in Quebec. Democracy is in visible retreat and weakening in America. It is the responsibility of stable political systems with robust institutions, such as Canada, to double their efforts to defend it.
This also requires an active OAS committed to its mandate. An OAS supported by despots, as it would be with Espinosa, or surrendering to them, as it was under Insulza, will be a victory for those who do not want democracy or human rights in the hemisphere.