The Sixth Summit of the Americas Wraps it Up

15 April 2012


Say what you will, those of us in the Western hemisphere can be rightly proud of the fact that all but one nation-state in the Americas is roughly democratic in its constitution. Many of these democracies are highly imperfect and leave much to be desired, but if we compare the western hemisphere where it is today to where it was in the 1970s and 1980s — with hyperinflation, numerous proxy wars for the Cold War, strongmen (caudillos) ruling countries for decades, and military regimes installed in some of the largest nation-states in the hemisphere — things look pretty good at present.

That sole exception — Cuba — was one of the points of contention at the Sixth Summit of the Americas, that just wrapped up business in Cartegena, Colombia. The BBC reported in Summit of the Americas ends without final declaration that, “The leaders failed to reach agreement on whether Cuba should attend the next gathering.”

It has been the steadfast position of Canada and the US that Cuba not be invited because it is not democratic. Many if not most of the other nation-states sending their representatives to the Summit feel that Cuba ought to be invited. I personally find this disappointing, that there is not more support for the intrinsic good of reinforcing the democratic character of the Western hemisphere, but this points to the fact that the different members of the Organization of American States view the purpose of the organization and of the summits differently. Other than the US and Canada, political leaders want the summit to be inclusive, regardless of content or intent.

Constanza Vieira of IPS quoted Uruguayan analyst Laura Gil in Last Summit of the Americas Without Cuba as saying:

“…there will not be another summit without Cuba. Either Cuba is included, or there will not be a summit at all. The absence of (Ecuadorean President Rafael) Correa is a red alert…”


“This summit reminds us that ideologies are still a force to be reckoned with. The limitations are plain to be seen…”

Although this remark was intended as a criticism of the exclusion of Cuba on ideological grounds, it is good to be reminded the ideologies are a force to be reckoned with, and it is appropriate the the OAS should take a stand against repressive regimes and in favor of democracy. Without this, the OAS becomes another talk-shop and a place for grandstanding to no purpose. It would also forfeit the legitimacy of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Also, truly enough, the limitations are plain to be seen, as the limitations of Cuba are plain to be seen from decades of repressive misrule by the Castro brothers. Cuba’s simultaneous repression and impoverishment are not accidental; each is implicated in the other, and the OAS should not tolerate as a member or as a participant a nation-state that imposes such misery (not to mention avoidable misery) on its people. There is no principle here represented by Cuba that is worth defending.

José R. Cárdenas in Americas Summit: Obama needs to rescue the democratic charter has a number of quotes from other Latin American representatives about their desire to include Cuba in any further OAS summits. If this is true, it is a disturbing and disappointing trend, and if it comes to the point of either inviting a non-democratic Cuba or not having another summit, I hope that the US will make no concessions to including Cuba for the sake of inclusion. That being said, I wonder how members would react to a proposal to allow Cuba to send an observer. This is a possible compromise that need not force the OAS to recognize a non-democratic nation-state but would allow Cuba to be present after a fashion.

The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, as noted in the above quote, felt so strongly about Cuba’s exclusion that he boycotted the summit and stayed home (Ecuador to boycott Americas summit over Cuba exclusion). Risa Grais-Targow of Foreign Policy has asked, Is Rafael Correa about to become the next Hugo Chávez? Certainly with Hugo Chávez dying of cancer (and receiving most of his medical treatment in Cuba), it is time to pass the leftist firebrand torch in South America, and Correa seems to have nominated himself. He stands to benefit from the David and Goliath dividend.

José R. Cárdenas is not the only one over at Foreign Policy taking Correa to task. There was a very strongly worded piece by Otto J. Reich and Ezequiel Vázquez Ger, How Ecuador’s immigration policy helps al Qaeda. The authors write:

These examples show how Rafael Correa’s Ecuador is becoming a failed state, hosting all sorts of dangerous actors. They also help to understand the context in which various financial, commercial, and energy agreements are being developed by Ecuador with the governments of Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela. While many of the agreements are not yet completed, they serve as “government-authorized illicit tunnels” through which anything and anyone can pass, from terrorists and drugs to money and arms.

It would probably be difficult to find much common ground between the sort of sentiments expressed by Laura Gil earlier, and those expressed just above. What these expressions of discontent manifest in common is a lack of diplomacy. It might sound disingenuous of me to say that Cuba could send an observer who was strictly identified as an observer but not a participant and not a member of the OAS, but this is the very essence of diplomacy. If diplomacy can make something possible that would not otherwise be possible, then it is a facilitator of events. Not to be a facilitator of events is to be an obstructionist.

It strikes me as perfectly appropriate if Cuba should send an observer to the Seventh Summit of the Amnericas, if there is one, and even that there should be meetings and many photo opportunities that give the impression to the public and to the media that Cuba was being “included.” Even a Rafael Correa or a Hugo Chávez could take this home as a symbol that they have vanquished the hated Yanqui.

Yet it is entirely possible to be both diplomatic and tough-minded (like Richard Holbrooke, whom we recently lost). If Cuba could be “included” in the sense described above — included in pictures, included in parties, included in rhetoric — but then taken into the back room and given a thorough drubbing beyond the view of the press, this could send an effective message. If words were followed by deeds, it would send even a stronger message.

The danger here is that some people — indeed, some diplomats — cannot sustain the illusion and simply lack the intestinal fortitude to make nice in public and then be brutal in private. But this is exactly what we need. There should be no compromise whatsoever over Cuba’s impoverishment, immiserization, lack of popular sovereignty, lack of the rule of law, and flaunting of the very idea of human rights, but all of these things can be maintained, pristine and intact, even while everyone is smiling for the cameras.

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Grand Strategy Annex

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2 Responses to “The Sixth Summit of the Americas Wraps it Up”

  1. MisterEgo said

    Impoverishment, you say?

    Sometimes you strike me as an American biggot. I thought you would have figured out that there is only one way to fight such a hostile economic reality – devaluation, or in this particular example, devaluation of the wages/pensions.

    I find it ridiculous that Cuba’s GDP per capita is $9,900 (2010 est.) while Serbia’s GDP p. c. is $10,700 (2011 est.). A democratic, capitalist country, mind you. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

    At 20$/month vs 250-300$/month for a typical monthly wage, I should probably both laugh and cry. I am lucky, 750-100 dollars for part time work (12$/h), What can I say, working for an American kind of promotes liberty. Economic one, the other one I kind of already have. Cubans need eco liberty as well. The African (we have nothing to eat but grass) kind doesn’t matter.

    You so beautifully wrote about North Korea’s “Military First” policy and then you ate your own excrement here.

    It’s obvious what the true cause of devaluation is, control of imports. Contrary to popular belief, the latest iPhone is not a necessity. Once you read on Wikipedia that Cuba imports about 80% of it’s food, the puzzle starts to arrange itself. I highly doubt that cuba has a 97.5% corruption rate (12/20/9900*100). Even when somebody does a “Military First” policy, the similarities are striking, though I doubt that one is in effect in Cuba.

    Richard Hoolbruke. Heh… Divide et Impera.

  2. Luke Moffat said


    I find your view stating the ‘intrinsic good’ of democratic character to be extraordinarily naive given the high quality which most of your posts usually contain. From the viewpoint of Geostrategic thought I find it difficult to reconcile morality at all with Western foreign policy. If we view America’s geostrategic imperatives (which coincidently is the world’s most influential democratic power) in the light of moral principle then how is it possible to reconcile economic dominance and resource acquisition with either Utilitarian or Deontological ethics? I would even suggest that free market economics establishes a moral apathy within most democratic nation-states and absolves individual citizens of any moral obligation by surrendering resource distribution to corporate authorities. American democracy perpetuates deregulation of global markets in a world of diminishing spending power as a means to increase her exports. What part of this is intrinsically good?


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