Friday, April 20, 2012

LA Times: Time to Include Cuba

Time to Include Cuba


April 17, 2012

Los Angeles Times


     The policy of banning Cuba from the Summit of the

     Americas for nearly 18 years is backfiring.


Once again, Cuba was absent from the Summit of the

Americas. Yet the communist nation might as well have

attended the gathering last weekend in Cartagena,

Colombia, because it took center stage, despite U.S.

efforts to focus on other issues.


Ecuador'spresident refused to attend the summit in

protest of Cuba's exclusion. Colombian President Juan

Manuel Santos and Brazil'sDilma Rouseff, both moderates

rather than left-wingers, said there should be no more

Summits of the Americas without Cuba. A leftist bloc of

nations that includes Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and

some Caribbean countries said it won't participate again

unless Cuba does. And the meeting ended without a final

joint declaration because the United States and Canada

refused to agree to language specifying that Cuba would

be invited to future summits.


The controversy should serve as a wake-up call to the

United States: The policy of banning Cuba from the

gathering of the hemisphere's leaders for nearly 18

years is backfiring. It hasn't led to regime change any

more than the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba

has; it hasn't persuaded President Raul Castro or,

before him, his brother Fidel to embrace democratic

reforms, hold free elections or abandon human rights

abuses. Instead, it has fueled frustration among Latin

leaders. Today, the United States is the only country in

the hemisphere that has not restored diplomatic

relations with Havana. Even the Organization of American

States, sometimes called an instrument of U.S. foreign

policy, cleared the way for Cuba to return to the group in 2009.


The Obama administration has denied that its goal in

excluding Cuba is to keep Cuban American voters in

Florida happy during a presidential election year.

Whatever the reason, the position is not playing well

with leaders in the region, who see embargoes and

political isolation as anachronistic policies from the

Cold War era.


The United States should abandon its push to keep Cuba

from attending the Americas summit. Engagement, not

isolation, is the best way to encourage change without

alienating allies.




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