Observing the General Assembly of the OAS: An Historic Day

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Observing the General Assembly of the OAS: An Historic Day

SAN PEDRO SULAS, HONDURAS - This day is an historic one. Today the Organisation of American States (OAS) rescinded a long standing clause written in 1962 that excluded Cuba from membership in the OAS.

This means that the door has now been opened, if and when Cuba wishes, to discuss membership. It will still be necessary for negotiations to take place, since member states of the OAS have clear criteria for membership. These include adherence to democratic principles and human rights observances.

It should be noted that the willingness of the new Obama administration to be open to a new relationship with Cuba has been one of the major catalysts for this development.

Many Caribbean nations have retained a relationship with Cuba, over these last years and Canada has maintained trade and friendship with Cuba since the days of Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Nonetheless the US as the wealthiest and most powerful of the OAS nations and carries enormous clout.

The negotiations were difficult because some states notably Nicaragua, San Salvador, Bolivia and Honduras were prepared to accept Cuba without conditions. Other states felt that the credibility of the OAS depended on the adherence to the principles governing the OAS charter.

Interestingly it was the Caribbean Bloc (Caricom) that saved the day, bringing a credible, neutral and pragmatic but principled voice to the negotiations.

The ball is now in Cuba's court.