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OUR CARIBBEAN: Cuba and US facing tough summit moves

Rickey Singh

OUR CARIBBEAN: Cuba and US facing tough summit moves

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Cuba’s recent surprised announcement that if invited it would attend the Sixth Summit Of The Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, scheduled for April 14 and 15, may have put the proverbial cat among the pigeons since, as stressed, it would do so without any commitment to return to the 34-member Organization of American States (OAS) from which the country was suspended some half a century ago under enormous pressures from Washington.
That signal of Cuba’s intent came during last month’s 11th Summit Of The Bolivarian Alternative For The Americas (ALBA) which was hosted in Caracas by President Hugo Chavez (whose brainchild it is), prior to his return to Havana last week for further treatment against cancer.
The government of Colombia, host of the summit, was caught in the political crossfire of Washington’s unofficial hint of a likely boycott by President Barack Obama, and countries of ALBA and the even more significant and wider 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) – from which the United States and Canada are excluded – that favoured an invitation being extended for Cuba’s presence for the two-day Cartagena conference.
So Colombia settled for a neutral stand, explaining that while it would welcome Cuba’s attendance, the final decision did not rest with its government but depended on the recommendation of  the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG) on which all OAS member countries (except Cuba) are represented.
On the other hand, member countries of both the ALBA bloc (among them three CARICOM states Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St.Vincent and the Grenadines – and the wider CELAC group were openly threatening to boycott the summit unless an invitation was extended to Cuba. However a formal resolution to this effect was not adopted, leaving OAS member nations open to make their own decision.
Mindful of division on the issue that could fracture unity within CELAC, Cuba is reported to have been engaged in quiet diplomacy with its allies to defuse tension over its intention to attend the Cartagena summit if officially invited.
Although no official confirmation is expected, this position by the Raoul Castro administration is viewed as a welcome approach by a number of OAS countries (among them CARICOM members not in ALBA), as well as Barack Obama who wants to be at the summit.
Understandably, after participating in the Fifth Summit Of The Americas in Trinidad  in April 2009, Obama does not wish to become embroiled in a dispute with hemispheric neighbours in this year of a presidential election.
After all, Obama has been cautiously encouraging easing of some restrictions without, of course, any pursuing any significant initiative to end America’s very punitive 50-year anti-Cuba financial, trade and economic blockade.
For its part Cuba, with its legendary revolutionary leader still around in retirement, has no intention to appease the America which, ironically, has become a victim of the “isolationist politics” that successive Washington administrations have been pursuing against Cuba. Just count the annual pro-Cuba votes at the United Nations General Assembly.