OAS evades debate on Cuba
By Allen Jennings
MANAGUA — Each and every country in the Americas — including the smallest Caribbean island — is a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS). Whether it be St Kitts-Nevis or the United States, the 35 member countries have an equal vote.
Except, that is, for Cuba, which paradoxically has been allowed "membership" while being barred from any of the OAS's activities since 1962.
The organisation met in Nicaragua for the first time in its 45-year history from June 6 to 12. The OAS General Assembly, made up of the foreign ministers or their representatives, discussed the situation in Guatemala and Haiti, but Cuba — which is desperately calling for support and solidarity in its defence against US aggression — was not on the agenda.
The people of Nicaragua, who feel a great bond with their Cuban sisters and brothers, did their best to change this.
"Cuba is the flag carrier of Latin American dignity", said Father Miguel D'Escoto, member of Nicaragua's National Commission of Solidarity with Cuba and former Sandinista foreign minister. "It has been forced to pay a high price in defending the right of Latin America to be Latin American."
"Lift the blockade on Cuba and strengthen the blockade on Haiti", were the sentiments expressed by Father Xabier Gorostiaga, the vice-chancellor of the Jesuit University of Central America, on presenting an honorary doctorate to the exiled president of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide, on June 7.
"The Cuban bishops are calling for the boycott to be lifted", he explained, "while the church and the people of Haiti are shouting: 'Long live the embargo'."
On the same day, thousands of people gathered here to pressure the OAS to change its stance on Cuba and end its apathy towards the 30-year blockade of the island by one of its members. They collected 20,000 signatures and planned to get 20,000 more before presenting the petition to the OAS.
Most people realise that relations between the countries of this hemisphere and Cuba are determined by the level of dependency on the United States. Two-
thirds of the member states (24 countries) have to say "No" to their most powerful neighbour just to discuss the issue.
The Nicaraguan foreign minister, Ernesto Leal, referring to the pressure to include Cuba in the OAS agenda, argued, "The OAS is a very serious organisation. Once the agenda is set, it is not easy to change." The question remains: "Who sets the agenda?"