Politics & Policy

Cuba in the Organization of American States?

Just say no.

Hijacking the agenda of the Summit of the Americas to proclaim and advance their radical visions was insufficient for the Western Hemisphere’s despotic leaders. These rogues and other apologists for the Cuban regime quickly engaged in an absurd competition to see who could best plead the case of Cuba’s reinstatement into the Organization of American States. This week’s OAS General Assembly in Honduras will no doubt prove to be more of the same. In fact, this time around, U.S. officials have even decided to get in on the action, introducing a proposal that lifts the 1962 suspension excluding the Communist government of Cuba from participating in the inter-American system and initiates a dialogue with the current regime in Cuba.

As U.S. policy, enshrined in the LIBERTAD Act (Helms-Burton Act), has long been to oppose any efforts by the Cuban regime’s sympathizers to terminate the dictatorship’s suspension from OAS membership, this latest action by U.S. leaders is especially disturbing. Section 205 of the Helms-Burton law specifically states that all efforts to lift the 1962 suspension should be opposed by the U.S. until the president has certified, pursuant to current U.S. law, that a democratically elected government is in power in Cuba. Clearly, the Cuban people are no closer to enjoying a democracy in Cuba today than when the suspension was implemented nearly 50 years ago.

When the OAS met in January 1962, to discuss, among other matters, Cuba’s status in the regional group, Fidel Castro, a member of the Third International founded by Lenin, had established a system based on Communist revolutionary ideology and on his experiences in bloody uprisings throughout Latin America. The threat the regime posed was best described by Spruille Braden, former assistant secretary of state for American republic affairs, in testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security in July 1959: “In all of my years of intimate contact since early childhood with Latin America, never have I seen the situation so dangerous as it is now for the defense of the United States.”

#ad#Less than three years later, member states of the OAS, citing the organization’s charter and the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, recognized that the Cuban regime’s actions not only violated the founding principles of the inter-American system, but also directly threatened regional security. Consequently, on Jan. 31, 1962, a resolution was passed officially excluding the Communist government of Cuba from participating in the inter-American system.

Since then, the OAS has implemented several measures to further promote adherence to democratic standards by member states. The American Convention on Human Rights was signed in 1969. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights was established in 1978. Resolution 1080 was adopted in 1991 to prepare for threats to democracy in the hemisphere and, ten years later, the Inter-American Democratic Charter was adopted to underscore the belief that “the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.”

By contrast, the Castro regime dedicated itself to destroying any semblance of democratic rights in Cuba. According to the most recent U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights, the dictatorship continues to engage in grave human-rights abuses, including physical and psychological torture, arbitrary arrest accompanied by harsh sentences and life-threatening prison conditions, discrimination against persons of African descent, domestic violence, underage prostitution, trafficking in persons, and severe restrictions on worker rights.

Instead of aligning with the Soviet Union, the Castro regime now embraces fellow state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Syria, pledging in 2001 during a visit to Tehran that together, Cuba and Iran would bring America to its knees. Cuba continues to provide safe haven to members of terrorist groups such as ETA, the FARC, and the ELN, and was reportedly helping to train paramilitary guerrillas in Venezuela last year. Nefarious efforts such as these undermine regional stability and directly threaten the security of the U.S. and our democratic allies.

Don’t be fooled: Cuba may now be led by a different Castro brother, but it is playing the same game.

Therefore, if Cuba is allowed to participate in the inter-American system without first returning to a freely elected, fully participatory, democratic form of government, no U.S. contributions — not a single cent of taxpayer funds — should go to the OAS.  In addition, no U.S. funds should be used to promote and advance a measure advocating the termination of the 1962 suspension.

In 1962, Costa Rica’s ambassador to the OAS, referring to the Cuban government’s expulsion, said: “We will keep Cuba’s seat open, but that open seat symbolizes the hope for the return, once again, that it will be filled by a government that believes in representative democracy.”

If Cuba must remain the priority of this week’s OAS General Assembly, then the focus should be on efforts to expedite Cuba’s return to representative democracy, instead of on elevating the stature of a dictatorship. It is the hope of the Cuban people who clamor to be free.

– Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) is the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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