The Summit of the Americas, scheduled to be held in Los Angeles from June 6 to June 10, intends to exclude Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. The exclusion has provoked protests from the governments of Latin America and Caribbean and from organizations of civil society in the hemisphere, including in the United States.
In its organization of the 2022 Summit of the Americas, the Organization of American States (OAS) fulfills its historic mission. It was established more than seventy years ago for the specific purpose of enlisting the support of Latin American governments in the domination exercised over them by the United States.
In the dispute on the Los Angeles Summit, there is being expressed a fundamental conflict between imperialism and socialism. Imperialism seeks access to the raw materials, cheap labor, and markets of the world; whereas one of the fundamental principles of socialism is the right of nations to control their economies and their natural resources. In recent decades, the United States has become increasingly economically and militarily aggressive in the pursuit of its imperialist objectives; today it demonstrates no inclination toward cooperation with the nations of the world in the development of a more just pluripolar world-system. On the other, the three excluded nations have openly declared that they are constructing socialism; and they have led the process of Latin American and Caribbean unity and integration, which seeks to develop mutually beneficial trade relations within the region that could sidestep unequal trade with the United States.
The history of U.S. imperialism, necessary for access to new markets
The concentration of industry in the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century greatly increased the productive capacity of the national economy, and at the same time, it established an emphasis on an amoral and anti-social pursuit of profit. With productive capacity of the nation surpassing the purchasing power of its national economy, the corporate/financial elite of the nation began in the 1890s to advocate the adoption of imperialist polices with respect to Latin America, so that the U.S. economy could attain access to the markets of the region. Imperialist policies also would provide access to natural resources and cheap raw materials, enabling the further expansion of production.
From that time to this, interference in the internal affairs of states to attain access to raw materials, cheap labor, and markets has been persistent. It may appear on the surface that a policy described as a “big stick” is different from being a “good neighbor,” but they are no more than different imperialist strategies. It may appear that the limited efforts of the Obama administration to normalize relations with Cuba constituted substantive change, but they were nothing more than a new imperialist strategy, however important normalization would have been for the Cuban economy. Careful observation shows that Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, Trump, and Biden have all pursued imperialist objectives with respect to Latin America and the Caribbean and the world, overriding differences in strategy or rhetoric.
For further discussion of the history of U.S. imperialism in the region, see previous commentaries: “The robber barons and monopoly capitalism: The origins of US imperialism in Latin America,” June 25, 2021; “The façade of defending democracy: US Imperialism and the military-industrial complex, 1933 to 1964,” June 29, 2021; “The struggle for the nationalization of natural resources: Latin American anti-imperialist movements,” July 6, 2021; “Neoliberalism and the U.S. turn to naked imperialism: The sustained structural crisis of the capitalist world-economy,” July 9, 2021; and “The doctrine of preventive war plus unconventional war: The aggressive face of imperialism in decadence,” July 23, 2021.
The Organization of American States and its historic exclusion of socialism
The Organization of the American States was developed during the twentieth century by the USA as an intergovernmental regional association, with the intention of institutionalizing the participation of Latin American states in the implementation of U.S. imperialist objectives. As I review in my commentary of July 30, 2021, a Pan-American system was conceived by U.S. Secretary of State James Blaine in 1889, and from 1889 to 1942 twelve Inter-American meetings were held, with the intention of establishing a regional intergovernmental institution under U.S. control. During the period, there was considerable resistance from the Latin American governments to the Pan-American project, because of their valid concern that it would undermine their sovereignty. Latin American resistance was evident with respect to various proposals at the conferences in Santiago de Chile (1923), Havana (1928), Montevideo (1933), Buenos Aires (1936), and Lima (1938).
The United States emerged from World War II with uncontested productive, commercial, financial, and military advantage, and from this position of strength, it was able implement its Pan-Americanist vision. Key steps were taken toward the institutionalization of an Inter-American system at the 1945 conference in Mexico, and the Organization of American States was created on April 30, 1948 in Bogotá.
With the prevailing Cold War ideological frame of the period, OAS was dedicated to preventing the spread of communism in the hemisphere. In 1954, OAS declared that communist activity constitutes intervention in the internal affairs of the Americas and affirmed that the installation of a communist regime in any state in the Western Hemisphere would imply a threat to the system, which would require an advisory meeting to adopt measures.
In 1961, the OAS expelled the government of Cuba from OAS, maintaining that the government of Cuba had officially identified itself as Marxist-Leninist, and that Marxism-Leninism is incompatible with the objectives of the inter-American system.
In 1991, OAS established representative democracy as the only legitimate system of government, not recognizing the legitimacy of the Cuban system of people’s democracy, established by the Cuban constitution of 1976. The OAS action was an ideological updating. With the collapse of the Eastern European socialist bloc, the “spread of communism” no longer constituted a serious threat. U.S. foreign policy shifted toward the protection of human rights, and the need for all nations to adopt the Western political system of representative democracy.
The OAS declaration of 1991 supplemented the U.S. unilateral intensification of its embargo of Cuba, converting it into a blockade, with the intention blocking third countries from investing in or trading with Cuba. At the time, it was hoped that Cuba, with serious economic difficulties due to the disappearance of the Eastern European socialist bloc, would be compelled to abandon its socialist road in order to attain economic relief, and the adoption of Western representative democracy became a key U.S. demand.
However, the Cuban people continued to support the Cuban political system and its socialist road, in spite of the economic difficulties and the U.S. call for the adoption of representative democracy. This is indicated, in the first place, by the continued participation of the great majority in the various institutions of people’s democracy. And in the second place, by the absence of mass protest demonstrations, in spite of U.S. efforts to stimulate them.
In 2001, the OAS adopted the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which declared that “representative democracy is the basis for the rule of law.” It identified the essential elements of representative democracy, including “the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.”
These defined elements do not recognize the Cuban system of democracy. Cuba conducts it elections (with secret balloting and universal suffrage) without the participation of any political parties and with nominations by the people in neighborhood assemblies, in an electoral process that creates the National Assembly of People’s Power, the highest authority in the nation. The Cuban Constitution concentrates political power in said National Assembly, which elects and overseas the executive and judicial branches. (The concentration of power in the legislature was a characteristic of the American English-settler colonies of the 1770s, and it was developed for a similar reason, namely, the ensuring that the political process responds to the interests and will of the people, and not the elite). Cuba has developed a system of people’s democracy, characterized by legislative structures of people’s power, the participation of mass organizations, and a vanguard political party with moral and pedagogical authority but not legislative or executive power.
Thus, the Cuban political process is at variance with the essential characteristics of representative democracy, as defined by OAS. In a previous commentary, I have maintained that the Cuban political process of popular democracy is an advanced form of democracy, more democratic than representative democracy. See “Political and civil rights in Cuba: The politicization of the issue of human rights,” June 24, 2021.
In 2009, OAS rescinded the expulsion of Cuba. However, Cuba has to apply for readmission, and inasmuch as its structures of people’s democracy are not in harmony with the Inter-American Democratic Charter of 2001, Cuba’s readmission would not be assured. Cuba has announced that it has no intention of seeking readmission to the OAS.
OAS attacks new manifestations of socialism
The persistence of socialist Cuba was a factor in the renewal of anti-imperialist movements at the turn of the century and in the emergence of proclamations in the region of “Socialism for the Twenty-First Century,” in which Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador (in the time of Rafael Correa), and Nicaragua played a leading role, in alliance with progressive governments (at the time) in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.
In accordance with its anti-socialist orientation and its historic mission, OAS has taken steps against Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, three nations that have declared that they are constructing socialism.
In 2019, the National Assembly of OAS recognized Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela. Guaidó had been than one of the leaders of the parliamentary opposition, who was encouraged by the USA to declare himself as president. Now that the Venezuelan government and its democratically elected constitutional president Nicolás Maduro has negotiated a settlement with the parliamentary opposition, the Guaidó claim is a dead issue. Venezuela has announced that it is leaving OAS.
In 2020, OAS determined that the 2019 general elections in Bolivia were fraudulent, a conclusion subsequently challenged by reputable organizations. The OAS declaration of electoral fraud was a factor in the coup d’état against Evo Morales, the founder of the Movement Toward Socialism, who had led the nation in developing a new constitution and in renegotiating contracts with foreign companies operating in Bolivia.
New elections were held in Bolivia in 2020, and the Movement Toward Socialism was returned to power. Luis Alberto Arce, the Minister of the Economy in the government of Evo Morales, was elected president. Evo returned to Bolivia from exile in Argentina, receiving an enthusiastic reception by the people. Bolivia remains of member of OAS.
In 2021, the OAS Permanent Council voted in favor of a resolution condemning the general elections in Nicaragua, in which Daniel Ortega was elected to a fourth term. This is an unsubstantiated claim, disseminated by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, U.S. President Joe Biden, CNN, The New York Times, among others. Nicaragua immediately announced withdrawal from OAS, thus joining Cuba and Venezuela as non-members. For more information on the spurious attack on the Nicaraguan elections, see my November 23, 2021 commentary, “Nicaragua withdraws from OAS: Sandinistas reject false charge of undemocratic elections.”
A brief history of the Summits of the Americas
The First Summit of the Americas was held in Miami in 1994, with the objective of attaining the support of Latin American and Caribbean nations for the U.S. proposal for a Free-Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The FTAA proposal sought an institutionalized regional recognition of free trade, moving beyond the country-by-country implementation of neoliberal policies through the U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund (IMF). The FTAA was not actually a proposal for free trade, in that it exempted U.S. agriculture and steel, which would have been adversely affected by free trade; at the same time, it did not permit other nations to exempt sectors important for their national economies. This contradiction was seized upon by Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, which were able to unite to block approval of FTAA at the 2005 Summit in Argentina.
With the burial of FTAA, the Summits of the Americas evolved to discuss other regional issues, organized in parallel events or forums with the participation of organizations of civil society. In this context, it occurred to many that the exclusion of Cuba was detrimental to the attainment of the Summit’s new objectives. There thus emerged a protest by many countries with respect to the exclusion of Cuba, which resulted in the inclusion of Cuba, still not a member of OAS, in the Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama in 2015. Organizations of Cuban civil society participated in the Summit, as did delegates who were not Cuban citizens or residents, organized by the U.S. embassy in Panama, claiming to represent a non-official Cuban civil society. With its inclusion established, Cuba also participated in the Eighth Summit in 2018 in Lima.
When the exclusion of Cuba from the Ninth Summit in Los Angeles was indicated by U.S. officials, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríquez denounced the exclusion (see “Cuba rejects its exclusion from Summit: The need for inclusive, respectful dialogue,” April 29, 2022). He maintained that the participation of Cuba would facilitate the possibility of a true regional dialogue with respect to the themes of the Summit, which had been announced as health, emigration, and democracy and human rights. Rodríguez maintained that no country in the Americas should be excluded from the Summit, although he indicated support for the decision of Nicaragua to not participate in the Summit and to withdraw from OAS.
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Thanks Charles, stay strong and keep up the good work. Abrazos, Mike
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