Cuba rejects its exclusion from Summit
The need for inclusive, respectful dialogue
In a declaration to the national and international press on April 25, Cuban Minister of Foreign Relations, Bruno Rodríguez, denounced the fact that the government of the United States has decided to exclude Cuba from the preparations for the Ninth Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Los Angeles from June 8 to June 10. He further criticized the U.S. government for applying extreme pressure on governments that have expressed, in a private and respectful manner, their opposition to the exclusion of Cuba. Rodríguez thanked the peoples and governments that have maintained a courageous and dignified position in solidarity with Cuba against its exclusion from Summit.
Rodríguez declared that the U.S. government misleads public opinion and the governments of the hemisphere by stating that it has not yet decided on the invitations. He called upon Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to say honestly if Cuba will or will not be invited to the Summit.
Rodríguez noted that, according to the preliminary announcements of the event, a central theme will be health. In relation to this theme, he expressed a duty to inform the Cuban people and international public opinion that there is being negotiated in a nontransparent manner, with the exclusion of Cuba and other member states of the Pan-American Organization of Health, a so-called Health and Recuperation Plan of Action of the Americas until 2030. This plan has many neoliberal elements and serious limitations in relation to the real needs of the peoples with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and the structural causes of the precarious systems of health in our hemisphere, including in the United States. And it avoids the substantive cooperation and fundamental financing that are necessary to deal with their consequences.
Rodríguez observed that Cuba has always provided modest but altruistic and persistent international cooperation in the area of health, a fact recognized throughout the world. Cuban vaccines against COVID, for example, are being used in Latin America, and Cuban medical brigades have provided emergency medical assistance to many countries of the region and the world. Cuban international cooperation has included: transferring technology; distributing pharmaceutical products, vaccines, and new treatments; and sharing advanced procedures and medicines.
With respect to the United States itself, Cuba has proposed on numerous occasions cooperation in the area of health, Rodríguez declared. We offered immediate medical assistance, including advanced medicines and technologies developed by Cuba, following the terrible events of September 11, 2001 and during the anthrax outbreak. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Cuba organized and offered a medical brigade, which we named for a young U.S. volunteer who was killed in action in the Cuban struggle for independence, Henry Reeve. Today, the Henry Reeve Brigades are known throughout the world. Recently, following the curious offering by the U.S. government of one million doses of vaccines when Cuba already had vaccinated its entire population with its own vaccines, we proposed a triangular project with vaccines and health personnel from both countries attending to the needs of nations of our region. As of today, we have not had a response from the government of the United States concerning our proposal.
The United States, Rodriguez noted, maintained the blockade, intensified in recent years to extreme levels, during the pandemic. It blocked the Cuban acquisition of lung ventilators at the time of greatest demand; it made difficult the acquisition of materials and supplies indispensable for the manufacturing of our COVID vaccines on an industrial scale; and it required a specific license to import oxygen from the United States at a moment of crisis in the supply of oxygen, caused by a breakdown in our principal plant. “The heartless and cruel application of the blockade in the field of health is one of the most questionable and notorious elements of the blockade against Cuba.”
Another principal theme of the Summit, Rodríguez reported, is that of emigration. On this theme as well, the United States is developing a plan behind the backs of public discussion. A document has been prepared, according to which the Latin American and Caribbean states would be obligated to take steps to prevent emigration.
Rodríguez noted that U.S. policy with respect to Cuban emigration is distinct from its policy of emigration from any other country: the U.S. deliberately tries to provoke illegal migration from Cuba to the United States. The cause of Cuban emigration today is fundamentally economic, and the U.S. has imposed a blockade for decades, with more extreme measures under Trump and Biden, with the intention of provoking deprivations in Cuban families. At the same time, the United States has cut legal channels of migration and impeded migration by Cubans to the USA. It has not complied with the still vibrant migratory accords between Cuba and the United States, according to which the USA is to grant at least 20,000 migratory visas annually. Through these mechanisms, the United States feeds illegal emigration, for purposes of political propaganda. Moreover, it persistently disseminates misleading information in digital networks, constantly feeding an irregular, disordered, and unsafe emigration.
A third principal theme of the Summit, Rodríguez reported, is that of democracy and human rights. In the hidden negotiations on this theme, the government of the United States is seeking to establish the Organization of American States as the entity that certifies elections in the region. The same Organization of American States that participated in the coup d’état in Bolivia by not recognizing the valid results of its presidential elections, in accordance with the interests of the United States. As is well known, the United States has been historically responsible for coups in the region, and it has been responsible for coups in recent years against progressive governments.
Rodríguez asked, how can there a Summit on the theme of democracy, when determined countries are excluded by the arbitrary caprice of the host country?
The United States, Rodríguez declared, does not have the moral authority to set itself up as a model of human rights. The blockade of Cuba is a massive systematic and flagrant violation of the human rights of Cuba, of Cuban families in the United States, and also of the people of the United States. Moreover, the systems of health and education in the USA do not guarantee protection of these human rights. And the United States does not have the moral authority to criticize others, taking into account the lack of protection for persons of low income, the restriction of union rights, the exploitation and repression of original peoples and cultures, and the wars, secret prisons, extrajudicial executions, and use of torture.
In seeking to exclude Cuba from the Summit, the United States wants to exclude Cuba from a hemispheric discussion of these themes. Cuba, however, would have much to say on these issues.
Rodríguez asked the U.S. Department of State if it would permit the civil society of the hemisphere to participate without exclusion in the Summit in Los Angeles, or will it be only those non-governmental organizations financed by the government of the United States? Will representatives of the Cuban civil society receive visas to attend?
The Ninth Summit of the Americas, Rodríguez stated, could still be an opportunity for dialogue concerning the most urgent problems that impact the hemisphere, if all countries are included, under equal conditions, and with sincere commitment.
The exclusion of Cuba would be a historic step backward, Rodríguez observed. Cuba participated with a firm, truthful, and constructive voice in the last two summits. Cuba was invited as a result of the strong complaint of numerous governments of Latin America and the Caribbean, which denounced the previous exclusion of Cuba.
Cuba is opposed to the exclusion of any country from the Summit of the Americas, and we are opposed, Rodríguez declared, to the participation of illegitimate and spurious representatives, imposed by the government of the United States. At the same time, Cuba supports the firm and legitimate decisions of the government of Nicaragua to remove itself from OAS and the Summit. He thanked the peoples and governments that maintain a dignified and courageous position in solidarity with Cuba, demanding of the government of the United States that Cuba not be excluded from the Ninth Summit of the Americas.
The Summits of the Americas
The First Summit of the Americas was held in Miami in 1994. Its primary purpose was to launch the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas), which had been proposed by the United States. The FTAA was presented as the establishment of all the Americas as an area of free commerce of products, services, capital, and financial transactions. However, the U.S. proposal excluded some products, including agricultural products and steel, inasmuch as their inclusion would have been detrimental to producers in the United States. At the same time, it was not envisioned that other nations would have the right to exclude certain products, because of the needs of their national economies.
At the Third Summit of the Americas in Quebec, the United States was able to attain agreement that the FTAA would be placed in vigor in January 2005. However, due to the resistance of some nations in the region, the implementation of the proposal was not attained.
U.S. President George W. Bush arrived at the November 2005 Summit with the intention of resuscitating FTAA. He had a strong ally in Mexican President Vicente Fox. However, five presidents, representing countries that form a significant part of the economy of the region, were opposed to the agreement. Venezuela had expressed its opposition at the Quebec meeting and had launched an alternative project of integration guided by the concepts and values of Simón Bolívar. Venezuela was joined in its opposition to FTAA by the four countries of MERCOSUR: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. These countries formally expressed opposition to the treaty on the grounds that U.S. agricultural products were to be excluded. They considered that the U.S. policy of subsidizing agricultural production was detrimental to agricultural producers of the countries of Latin America, establishing a barrier to the sale of their products in the United States. They asserted that they could not continue with negotiations concerning the FTAA without revision of the U.S. policy of agricultural subsidies.
A tone of resistance to U.S. impositions was established at the opening ceremony of the Summit, when the host country president criticized the neoliberal policies of the United States. Argentinean President Néstor Kirchner asserted: “The first world power . . . necessarily ought to consider that the policies that are applied not only provoked misery and poverty, but they also added regional institutional instability that provoked the fall of democratically elected governments.” He also denounced “that archaic vision of the issue of the debt” and “the unjust system of international commerce.”
As a result of the opposition of the governments of the five countries in conjunction with popular opposition in all the countries of the region, FTAA could not be resuscitated. The final text included a declaration of the governments that supported the FTAA, affirming their commitment to attain an FTAA agreement. At the same time, it included a statement from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela: “The necessary conditions are not yet present for the attainment of an equitable hemispheric free-trade agreement with effective access to the market, free of subsidies and distorting commercial practices, and that takes into account the needs and sensibilities of all the partners as well as the differences in levels of development and size of the economies.” The statement implies that a free-trade agreement could be signed, if it took into account particular needs of the national economies, and if it gave priority not to the wealthiest nation but to the nations that are least developed and that have smaller economies.
Following the burial of the FTAA, the Summit of the Americas evolved to address various issues organized in parallel events or forums, with the participation of non-governmental organizations of civil society. This evolution occurred in a political context in which many organizations of civil society and several governments had an agenda fundamentally opposed to that of the United States, which brought to a head the issue of the exclusion of Cuba. Given the original purpose of the Summits, the exclusion of Cuba had a certain logic, in that the FTAA was never intended to include Cuba. But the evolution of the function of the Summits undermined this logic. Several governments and civil society organizations launched an intense protest with respect to the question of Cuba, compelling the U.S. government to concede the inclusion of Cuba, which participated for the first time in the Seventh Summit of the Americas, held in Panama in 2015.
The participation of Cuba, with its alternative understanding of civil society, provoked conflict at the Seventh Summit. Dr. Thalía Fung, President of the Cuban Philosophical Society, maintains that civil society is a reflection of the state, and its characteristics are shaped by the political system of the country. In the case of Cuba, civil society is formed by the various mass organizations that were developed, following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, in order to facilitate active citizenship participation. The mass organizations include the Confederation of Cuban Workers, the National Association of Small Agricultural Producers, the Cuban Federation of Women, and the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, a neighborhood organization with presence in every city block and in the countryside. The leaders of these popular organizations are elected by delegates who are elected at the base by its membership. In addition, Cuban civil society includes professional and scientific organizations as well as persons with special interests or concerns, such as the environment.
Fung observes that many people in the world assume that the organizations of civil society in Cuba are not independent, because they are not in conflict with the government. But this assumption does not take into account the interests that a given government defends. When a government defends the interests of banks and corporations, or a petty bourgeois bureaucratic class, popular organizations will emerge that critique the government, and they engage in political action in opposition to the government and/or its policies. But when the government defends the interests of the people, the functions of state and civil society are complementary, and their relations are neither antagonistic nor conflictive. In the case of Cuba, the popular organizations, which are modestly financed by the low dues of its many members, see themselves as non-governmental but not anti-government. The absence of conflict between the civil society and the government in Cuba is a result of the widespread belief in Cuban society that Cuban political institutions respond, as best as they can in light of limited national resources, to the interests and needs of the popular classes and sectors, and it does so through active citizenship participation.
At the Seventh Summit’s Forum of Civil Society in Panama, persons of Cuban origin no longer resident in Cuba had been accepted as delegates representing Cuban civil society. They apparently had been proposed as delegates by the U.S. embassy in Panama, which had met with the “delegates” and had had given them guidelines concerning their comportment at the forum. The US-supported group maintained that it forms an alternative Cuban civil society and that the Cuban delegation is the “official” Cuban civil society, intertwined with the government and not independent. For its part, the Cuban delegation, focusing on the fact that two of the persons in the U.S.-sponsored delegation had been involved in terrorist acts and others were associates of known terrorists, demanded the expulsion of the “group of mercenaries with terrorist ties.” In addition, U.S.-supported delegates provoked conflicts in another forum, on Citizen Participation and Governability, resulting in the incapacity of the Forum to produce a declaration of principles and positions.
Who authentically represents Cuban civil society? Respect for the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of nations requires that no nation should seek to organize and/or direct the representatives of the civil society of another nation at an international forum. Any delegates organized by the USA, if they have appropriate characteristics to be delegates by virtue of their participation in social movements and legitimate social organizations, should be accredited as delegates of U.S. and not Cuban civil society. No international forum should permit the United States or organizations of U.S. civil society to name the delegates of Cuban civil society, or that of any other nation.
Support for Cuba begins to emerge
The Cuban newspaper Granma reported that the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, expressed on April 27 his intention to ask U.S. President Joe Biden for the participation of all the countries of the region in the Ninth Summit of the Americas. López Obrador maintained that the era of blockades has passed and that coercive measures ought to cease in favor of dialogue and cooperation, with respect for the sovereignty and the political form of each government. The Foreign Minister of Mexico, Marcel Ebrard, added that that the United States ought to see the countries of America as allies working on the same effort of regional development. López Obrador elaborated that he will ask for the initiation of a new stage in the relation between the United States and its neighbors to the South, which has nothing in common with the experience of the last decades, but which reflects a different position from Washington, more inclusive and respectful.
Granma also reported that the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Rowley, likewise questioned the exclusion of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from the Summit. He maintained that the principles of the Caribbean community with respect to Cuba are clear. And he confirmed the Cuban foreign minister’s declaration that pressures were being applied by the U.S. government. In addition, he related that there were discussions concerning the representation of the three countries, and according to Washington, the self-proclaimed president Juan Guaidó ought to represent Washington.
I asked my friend and colleague Juan Azahares, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Havana, what the people think. He responded that the people are saying that the U.S. wants to exclude Cuba from the Summit because it is afraid. It is afraid that Cuban delegates, speaking within U.S. territory, would have discourses that discredit the United States with respect to the three themes of the Summit. Cuba has an exceptional record with respect to health and democracy and human rights; it has normalized its relations with the Cuban emigration, and it consistently has sought a legal and safe emigration. In contrast, with all three issues, U.S. policy is inconsistent and hypocritical, and driven by particular interests. The people support the position outlined by Bruno Rodríguez, the Party, and the government. At the same time, the people do not see this as an important bread and butter issue. They do not think that the Summit is going to resolve any problems, whether Cuba participates or not.
Why the exclusion, and why does Cuba protest?
The United States wants to exclude Cuba, and apparently Venezuela and Nicaragua, because they are challenging politically and ideologically the historic U.S. project of domination over the region.
The approach of Cuba to its exclusion from the Summit of the Americas differs from its perspective in relation to the OAS. The Organization of American States was created in 1948, when the United States was at the height of its hegemony, with the intention of establishing a diplomatic structure that would enlist the participation of Latin American governments in U.S. neocolonial domination over them. It was so oriented to the promotion of U.S. interests that Raúl Roa García, Foreign Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, called it the colonial office of the USA. When a unified socialist Cuba was able to prevent the establishment near the Bay of Pigs of a beachhead provisional government, which the OAS could have recognized, Latin American governments, with the honorable exception of Mexico, voted to expel Cuba from the OAS in 1962. In 2009, in the context of a new political reality, OAS rescinded the expulsion; but Cuba, both before and after the rescinding, has indicated that it does not intend to return to an organization dominated by U.S. and elite interests.
But Cuba has a different response to its exclusion from the Summits of the Americas, because even though it was established to promote the U.S. proposal for FTAA, it nonetheless has evolved since, and it has included forums on various themes, with the participation of organizations of civil society. In this context, Cuba sees the potential for dialogue on important issues across the North-South ideological divide, if all nations and ideological perspectives are included.
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