At the insistence of the United States and Canada, Cuba was excluded from the Sixth Summit of the Americas, an intergovernmental conference held in Cartagena, Colombia, over April 14-15.
As a result of opposition from many Latin American nations over Cuba's exclusion, as well as Argentina's claim to sovereignty over the Malvinas (Falklands) islands, the summit ended with no final declaration signed.
The summit, involving all nations in the Americas except Cuba, is ostensibly designed to facilitate dialogue, understanding and cooperation between nations of the region.
In reality, behind the edifice of speech-making, photo-ops and cultural displays, the it is little more than an enforcement vehicle for the neoliberal development agenda. This agenda seeks to places as much of the region's resources as possible in the hands of big corporations.
There is resistance to this push. At a governmental level, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was formed last year — holding its first summit in Venezuela in December. CELAC involves all nations from Latin America and the Caribbean — including Cuba, but excluding the US and Canada.
At a popular level, the fifth alternative Summit of the Peoples was held in Cartagena, coinciding with the Summit of the Americas. Venezuela Analysis said on April 16 that representatives of social movements from across the continent discussed social, political and economic issues — and marched through the streets of Cartagena.
The Summit of the Peoples agreed on a final declaration that opposed neoliberalism, called for social rights to be guaranteed and called for new pro-people “financial infrastructure” to be created.
Venezuelaanalysis.com said: “The movements also demanded the demilitarisation of the continent and the closing of all US military bases, as well as an end to the US blockade of Cuba.”
Host country Colombia gives an example of the result of the sort of neoliberal policies pushed by the US and Canada at gatherings such as the summit.
In Colombia, the transfer of wealth has led to destabilising extremes of wealth and poverty, bitter social conflict, many thousands of deaths and the largest internal refugee crisis in the Western hemisphere.
Not far from the Cartagena conference centre on the plantation-rich Caribbean coast, paramilitary death squads still assassinate trade union leaders and community activists.
Similar trends are evident in many other Latin American states, such as Mexico and Peru, where large and impoverished indigenous populations are oppressed by capital city-based white elites acting as agents for foreign capital.
All three states are key US allies and sources of immense wealth for US and Canadian corporations.
Socialist Cuba, by contrast, has been in the vanguard of Latin American resistance to capitalist imperialism since the 1959 revolution. As a result, it continues to be the subject of intense diplomatic harassment by the US.
This vengeful campaign has included covert acts of terrorism against the Cuban people, accompanied by a crippling economic blockade.
Washington's objective has been to isolate and “contain” Cuba, preventing the “contagion” of its socialist example from “infecting” other countries.
Cuba's exclusion on the most arbitrary of grounds is a petty and mean-spirited act consistent with more than five decades of US venom-spitting towards its small neighbour.
Historically, Canada has tended to be less hostile towards revolutionary Cuba. Under the ultra-conservative Stephen Harper government, however, Canada´s position is virtually indistinguishable from that of the United States.
Opposition to the exclusion of Cuba came from some Latin American governments before the event began. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega declined to attend, citing solidarity with Cuba as the main reason.
“This president will never again contribute to another Americas summit,” Correa said, “if an American country is unjustly excluded, isolated and discriminated against like Cuba.
“This does not mean we believe ourselves superior to any other country, nor does it mean that we wish to advance any particular agenda.
“It means that we have very solid convictions and we act on the basis of these convictions, not on the basis of self-interest, nor in response to external pressure.”
Correa also said it was inappropriate for the summit to exclude discussion of the Malvinas problem, another imposition from Washington.
Ortega said the Summit of the Americas was “badly named” as not all American countries were represented.
The summit, Ortega said, was a “secret summit, censored from the gaze of the people and the world … Cuba must be present or there will be no more so-called Americas Summits.”
Bolivia's Evo Morales, Argentina's Christina Kirchner, Paraguay's Fernando Lugo and the Venezuelan chancellor Nicolas Maduro (representing the cancer-battling President Hugo Chavez) also took a principled stand against the exclusion of Cuba and the suppression of the Malvinas issue.
These representatives had all departed from the summit before the final declaration on April 15.
At the summit, Morales hailed the swelling tide of “rebellion” in Latin America and denounced the inflexible and “dictatorial” position of the US. He said this position betrays the fraudulent nature of Obama´s 2008 “change” platform.
Before taking office, Obama promised to enact meaningful reform with respect to the United States' draconian Cuba policy. Beyond easing a few travel restrictions, however, nothing of any substance has eventuated.