Friday, January 2, 2009

Cuba's Return

By Ben Trott

Cuba, Immanuel Wallerstein noted in a January 1 comment article, is back. Specifically, at a series of December meetings amongst Latin American heads of state (at which Columbia, El Salvador and Peru were notable in their absence) the country was admitted into the Grupo de Río forum. Wallerstein explains that the meetings, all of which took place in Brazil, also involved an agreement to establish a South American Defense Council and a significant improvement in the relations between Mexico and Cuba.

The timing of the meetings, one of which also involved a number of Caribbean presidents, is said to be no accident, coming as it does a few months ahead of the Summit of the Americas meeting scheduled for April in Trinidad. This meeting will include Canada and the US and exclude Cuba. 'Presumably,' Wallerstein explained,
'Obama will be faced there with the arguments and proposals put forward at the meeting in Brazil. The first is to include Cuba by revoking its suspension from the Organization of American States. Lula stated that, in order to improve the relations of Cuba and the United States, it is the United States that must take the first step by lifting the embargo. A second is to review outstanding national debts. Ecuador has already announced a moratorium on further debt payments, saying that, after paying the debt for 28 years, it still owes the same amount - a "dismal story" said President Correa.

'Castro said he is ready for direct talks with Obama. "If he wants to have a discussion, we will. It's increasingly difficult to isolate Cuba." Lula actually went further in his challenge to Obama. He said that his presidency would become truly historic only when he lifts the Cuban blockade. In the meantime, what used to be the backyard of the United States - Latin America - is increasingly open to other world powers. Russia, China, and Iran have all increased their role in Latin America in significant ways.'
In a piece in today's Guardian, former Latin America correspondent Richard Gott has a piece arguing that an Obama visit to Havana - 50 years after the Cuban revolution - would be 'an event as spectacular as that moment 50 years ago when Fidel and Guevara acknowledged the plaudits of the crowd: the dawn of hope.'

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