Republican Says Obama Must Boycott OAS Summit If Cuba Is Invited

By Patrick Goodenough | February 23, 2012 | 4:34 AM EST

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, Bolivia's President Evo Morales, center, and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, seen here in La Paz, Bolivia in July 2009, are among the leftist leaders insisting that Cuba be invited to the Summit of the Americas in April. (AP Photo/File)

( – A dispute over whether Cuba should be allowed to attend an upcoming summit organized by the Organization of American States shows no sign of resolution, with neither the OAS nor the host government prepared to make a decision on the politically-charged issue.

A quartet of leftist Latin American countries – Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador – is insisting that the Castro regime be permitted to take part in the Summit of Americas, due to be held in Cartagena, Colombia, in mid-April.

The United States is opposed to the idea. Cuba is the only country in the hemisphere that is not a member of the OAS, having been ejected from the group in 1962 over its support for the Soviet Union.

Earlier this month, Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin visited Havana in a bid to resolve the issue, but was evidently unable to do so, and told reporters that Cuba does want to attend. Holguin said it was not up to the Colombian government to invite Cuba to the summit.

The attempt to leave the decision up to the OAS was unsuccessful, however. OAS legal affairs secretary Jean Michel Arrighi was quoted Monday as saying the matter was not one for the OAS to decide, and that Colombia has the authority to approve Cuba’s attendance.

The OAS’ reluctance to take on the U.S. is not unexpected: American taxpayers account for almost 60 percent of the total contributions to the organization by member states. In its budget request for fiscal year 2013, the State Department has requested $51.1 million for the OAS, about $1.5 million more than the FY2012 figure.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa recently suggested that if Cuba is not invited to the summit, members of the leftist Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) should boycott the event.

ALBA, a bloc set up by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2004 as a vehicle for his “21st century socialism” vision, comprises Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – and Cuba.

Meanwhile one of Cuba’s most outspoken critics in the U.S. Congress says the Obama administration should not to attend the Cartagena meeting if Havana is invited.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, urged the OAS not to invite Cuba.

“The campaign for Cuba’s inclusion in the Summit of the Americas is being led by regional tyrants who want to shift the summit’s focus away from their human rights abuses and repression of democracy, and turn it into a platform to bash the U.S.,” she said in a statement.

“Chavez, [Bolivian President Evo] Morales, [Nicaraguan President Daniel] Ortega, and Correa know that having the Castro regime in their lineup will help them turn the Summit into an anti-American hate fest,” she added.

Ros-Lehtinen said as a non-member of the OAS Cuba has no right to attend the gathering. Should it be invited anyway, she said, President Obama must boycott it.

Asked earlier this month whether the U.S. would attend if Cuba does, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to “get into hypotheticals.”

“Our view on the posture of Cuba has not changed with regard to the Summit of the Americas and we don’t think that the posture of the summit nations should change either,” she added.

In June 2009, OAS members prodded by the ALBA bloc passed a resolution that aimed to start the process of ending Cuba’s suspension. It agreed unanimously to revoke a 1962 measure stating that the adherence by any OAS member “to Marxism-Leninism is incompatible with the inter-American system” and that the alignment of any government “with the communist bloc breaks the unity and solidarity of the hemisphere.”

The 2009 resolution did not in itself restore Cuban membership, making that dependent on “a process of dialogue … and in line with the practices, purposes and principles of the OAS.”

Cuba then stated that it was not interested in rejoining the organization anyway.

Ros-Lehtinen said the ALBA countries must not be allowed to “hijack the summit for their own ends, which are contrary to the values of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.”

The charter, adopted in 2001, says in its first article that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow