By Isaac Risco
HAVANA TIMES — The photo of the leaders attending next week’s summit in Havana CELAC will likely be a diplomatic triumph for the hosts: the leaders of 33 American countries gathered symbolically around Cuba. Only Canada and the United States, the great ideological opponent of the Castro government, will be absent, notes dpa news.
The picture will show how the regional position of Cuba has changed, despite the many criticisms that are made of the situation of human rights and the internal opposition on the island.
The summit will also show that Washington’s sanctions against Cuba have failed. Despite more than 50 years of economic embargo, the Castro regime has managed to reinsert itself successfully in the region. In the 60s all Latin American countries except Mexico had broken off ties with the island.
Numerous heads of state and government are expected in Havana, including Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff, Argentina’s Cristina Fernandez, Mexican Enrique Peña Nieto and the Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro for the II Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Also scheduled to be present are senior representatives of international organizations including UN secretary general, Ban Ki -moon, and the head of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza.
Insulza ‘s visit also has a historical component since it will be the first visit by a head of the OAS to Cuba after the triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959.
The OAS, based in Washington, suspended Cuba at the urging of the United States in 1962, as the island’s government allied itself with Soviet socialism. Still today, the OAS is seen by left leaning governments in the region as an “instrument of domination” of the powerful northern neighbor.
The OAS “has a negative historical baggage as an instrument of domination of the United States which cannot be solved by any reforms,” said Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Friday when reiterating that Havana has no intention of returning to the OAS.
“The CELAC has followed the practice of diplomatic courtesy to invite Secretary-General Insulza to the second summit in Havana, as happened in previous summits,” said Rodriguez.
The summit reflects the reintegration of Cuba with the continent. The Raul Castro administration has good relations with all countries in the region, even with right-wing governments such as Colombia and Chile.
The Colombian peace process with the FARC guerrillas is seen as a diplomatic success for Cuba, with Havana being the permanent headquarters of the negotiations. Internationally, the CELAC summit is the first major event of this caliber in Havana since the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in 2006.
Focused on issues such as the fight against poverty and hunger, it is unlikely that the meeting of CELAC will generate major concrete agreements, given the different political positions and interests of a region of more than 20,000 million square kilometers.
On the other hand, criticism of the block for holding its summit in Havana has begun to be heard louder a few days before the event .
The arrival of numerous presidents to the island will be “a very sad day in the history of Latin American democracy” stated a recent editorial in “El Nuevo Herald” from Miami, where the main anti-Castro Cuban exile community lives.
None of the foreign leaders have thus far stated they are considering meeting in Havana with representatives of the outlawed Cuban dissidents, to avoid disturbing the hosts. However, some opponents have said they will try to see the foreign delegations.
The illegal but tolerated Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, led by dissident Elizardo Sanchez, reported that it had sent a letter to different embassies including that of Mexico, Colombia and Chile, asking for a meeting to “underscore the need to strengthen cooperation in the field of human rights.”
Other opponents, meanwhile, began reporting arrests of activists, as took place on other occasions, for example during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2012.
The outlawed Patriotic Union of Cuba said its leader, former prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer, was arrested Friday after meeting with foreign diplomats in Havana.