Cuba’s Role in Latin American Integration

Elio Delgado Legon

Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — The second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) concluded in Havana. Chair of the Community in 2013, Cuba was a member of the three-State board of directors in 2012 and will retain this position in 2014.

This would have been unthinkable only decades ago, when Cuba was removed from the OAS and all Latin American governments, with the commendable exception of Mexico, broke ties with the country on instructions from the United States.

Bringing together the 33 countries that make up Latin America and the Caribbean under a single community was the step needed to bring about Bolivar’s dream, later rekindled by Jose Marti and invoked time and time again by Fidel Castro, of finding strength in the unity of this continent, which Marti called “our America.”

Created in 2011 in Caracas thanks to the efforts and will of all its member countries and, particularly, the impetus afforded by the political charisma of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, CELAC was chaired by Chile in 2012.

The summit held in Havana from January 28 to 29, fruit of the arduous work of Cuban high officials who sought unity in diversity (the founding principle of the community), demonstrated the enormous rallying power of the island’s leadership, which secured the participation of nearly all the region’s heads of State or government (those who were unable to attend apologized and explained the reason and sent high-ranking officials to represent them).

All of the leaders who spoke at the gathering underscored Cuba’s efficiency as chair of the organization in the course of 2013 and congratulated the Cuban government for the extraordinary organization that characterized the summit’s activities.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other high representatives of different UN agencies were among the personalities invited to attend. While answering questions put to him by the accredited press at the Summit, Ban Ki-moon declared he is convinced of CELAC’s importance, the role it can play in conjunction with the UN and that the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean are well in their way towards overcoming their challenges. He also commended countries in the region for “building bridges that facilitate economic trade among themselves and with other regions.”

The UN Secretary General also mentioned Cuba’s importance as chair of CELAC and the significance of the documents drawn up and approved by the Summit.

One of the most noteworthy documents signed is the Havana Declaration. Though published by Havana Times, I would like to quote one of its paragraphs for, in my view, it eloquently summarizes the chief objectives of the organization.

“We ratify, today, our unshakable will to strengthen this space for effective political dialogue. We have been, are and will continue to be different, and it is on the basis of this diversity that we must identify our common challenges and objectives and the common ground that will allow us to make headway in the process of integration undertaken in our region. Let us strengthen our democracies and all human rights for all, give our peoples greater opportunities, construct more inclusive societies, bolster our productivity, broaden our trade, improve our infrastructure and connectivity and the networks needed to bring our peoples closer together, work for sustainable development, to overcome inequalities and to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth, so that everyone feels that democracy gives meaning to their lives. This is CELAC’s mission, it is the task we have been called on to fulfill and it is the political responsibility we have ahead of us, the one we must answer to before our peoples.”

Another highly important document is the one that declares Latin America and the Caribbean as a “Peace Zone.” Additional thirty or so special declarations on the most diverse issues of concern in the region were also issued.

Cuba played a decisive role in the preparation of these documents and its importance in CELAC’s future work was underscored by many chiefs of State. This demonstrates the changes that have been taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean since Cuba was expelled from the OAS.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

13 thoughts on “Cuba’s Role in Latin American Integration

  • the US is excluding itself from Latin America as Cuba forges strong ties with these countries. the embargo is having a boomerang effect. Cuba in and US out.

  • Where are the fotos?

  • The Castro regime arrested over 70 democracy activists from the Cuban Patriotic Union (“UNPACU”), a leading opposition group in the eastern provinces.
    The arrests took place as shock troops raided various UNPACUmeeting points in Santiago. Dissidents were beaten with batons and bike-chains.
    Meanwhile, in Palma Soriano, the authorities cracked down on dissidents who had peacefully gathered at a park to protest against the Castro regime’s repression.

    As soon as the CELAC charade is over, once again we see the true face of the despotic Castro regime. We should expect nothing more from them, but shame upon the various South American and Caribbean leaders who participated in the summit in Havana. Is this the sort of democracy and human rights they endorsed in the resolution?

  • I have seen no evidence that Cuba is liberalizing anything. They still rank near the bottom of the list in economic freedom, freedom of the press and respect for human rights. Raul Castro has stated emphatically there will be no political reforms.

    With the recent increase in the number of Americans travelling to Cuba, has there been any corresponding improvement in the human rights situation on the island? No improvement.

    Has the regime reduced or increased the arrests, harassment and repression of dissidents? They increased the repression.

    Therefore, it is more likely that lifting the embargo will only strengthen the regime and maintain the repression of the Cuban people.

  • You simply can’t justify the human rights abuses in Cuba by claiming that there are worse abuses elsewhere around the world. It’s like the wife-beater who says “everybody else does it”. The lack of strip clubs in Cuba are no excuse for the beatings and detentions of the Ladies in White. The biblical reference likewise falls short. If you believe that the only criticism of Cuba worth entertaining is that criticism from perfect people who live in perfect countries, then Cuba is in the clear. The fact that the US maintains cordial relations with ‘bad actors’ yet imposes an embargo on Cuba is not hypocritical. China, Saudi Arabia, and others on the ‘list’ have other attributes that make engagement with the US in our best interests. There is NOTHING we want let alone need from Cuba. A recent CNN poll names Fidel Castro as the most hated dictator for Americans. It is not only the declining Miami exile community that drives the US anti-Castro policy. Finally, while Cuba’s tepid recent economic changes should be recognized, it is the needed POLITICAL reforms that should trigger changes in US policy.

  • Human rights? Go to Thailand. the Philippines and anywhere in Latin America and see how women are exploited through strip clubs, massage parlors, brothels, open prostitution on the streets. See the begging children who pour out of the slums. In Cuba all the children are in school and are well cared for. In Cuba there are no strip clubs, no massage parlors, no brothels, no mail order bride scams, no casinos and no guns in the street. The police crack down on women who are seen with foreign men. If they are caught more than once they are sent out of the city. I have been to Cuba several times and have witnesssed this. Of course there is prostitution but the authorities do their best to suppress it as opposed to most countries including our our own where it is tolerated or even legal in certain places. Cuba does its best to protect the half of its population that is female.

    If you are so concerned about human rights why dont you recommend that we establish a boicott on Saudi Arabia where there are no rights for women and no elections? Why isnt there a Helms Burton act for that kingdom insisting that it have free elections? Cuba is moving quickly to open its economy and allowing its citizens to travel abroad as we have seen in the example of Yaoni Sanchez who is very critical of the Castro government and who is back in Cuba without being detained.

    There are more restrictions on criticism of the government in China than there is in Cuba but no one is proposing that we mount a boicott there. We have more than two million in prison, many over minor offenses such as the use of crack cocaine. Our military has tortured prisoners in Abu Graib and other places. The number of political prisoners in Cuba is in the hundreds if that. Keep in mind that the CIA has tried to kill Castro a number of times and terrorist groups in the US have bombed hotels in Havana and brought down a Cuban civiilian airliner with 78 athletes on board so it is natural that Cuba is vigilent. The Cuban five were sent here to inflltrate such terrorist groups and have been unjustly sent to prison. The bible says not to condemn the speck in someone else’s eye when you have a plank in your own.

    The best way to help the 12 million citizens of Cuba is not to punish them with an embargo but to open trade and travel. The limited steps we have taken so far allowing Cuban Americans to visit without restriction and allowing more money flows to famliy members have resulted in substantial benefit through expansion of private enterprise. We shouldnt be the only industrial country in the world which has restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba. It makes no sense for a small group of old line Cubans in Miami to dictate our policy. Even the sugar baron Franjul is traveling there and waiting to do business once we allow it. Of course he is being demonized by the Miami mafia.

  • Your earlier comment claimed that the US was at risk of being “left out” of Latin America. Admitting the error in your comment is not necessary but I hope you will agree that the US is well-established in Latin America and even China’s recent trade gains are no present threat to US influence in culture, trade, politics in the region. Second, while it appears that you do not agree with US Latin American policy, a policy exists. Finally, I agree with you wholeheartedly that the US should end its largely ineffective and misapplied embargo on Cuba. The difference in our positions is under what conditions should the embargo be lifted. America may at times stand alone in our defense of freedom around the world. International consensus is always preferred but in our role as the only remaining superpower, the responsibility to do the ‘right’ thing may require the US to go against what is comfortable and convenient. BTW, lifting the
    embargo against Vietnam and more recently against Myanmar came as a result of both of these countries agreement to changes in their human rights practices.

  • China is expanding trade and investment in Latin America while the US concentrates on Asia. In any case it makes no sense to keep the existing restrictions on Cuba. We alllow trade, travel and investment in non democratic China and Vietnam with beneficial results for people there as well as in the US. The family kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a close ally. Why should the US be the only industrial country with restrictions on Cuba? We should not let a small group of old line Cubans in Miami continue to dictate our policy. Even the elder Fanjul sugar man travels to Cuba and recognizes that the embargo helps no one. Cuba is graduallly liberalizing and and end to the embargo would only enhance this trend as it has in Vietnam. Cuban Americans are flooding to Cuba; why not the rest of us?

  • Now that the CELAC summit is over and the photo-ops are finished, the brutal, repressive totalitarian Castro regime gets back to business as usual:

    “Cuban police detain dissident Antunez and his wife”

    “More than 15 police cars and trucks and even a fire truck turned up for the raid as police painted over the anti-Castro slogans on the front of their house, Fortún reported.

    Dissident Loreto Hernández and Donaida Pérez were also arrested. Hernández later reported that he had been freed but that there’s no word on García Pérez’s whereabouts.

    Yris Pérez was away from the home during the raid but was arrested later along with five other dissidents in the provincial capital, Santa Clara, as she left the home of a government opponent there, said dissident Damaris Moya.

    Moya said she witnessed police punching Pérez and roughly throwing her and the five others into police cruisers when the activists tried to walk to the State Security offices in Santa Clara to demand García Pérez’s release.”

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  • Unless “political dialogue” as described in the excerpt above has the possibility of resulting in political change, what’s the point? Is Raul willing to provide space for dialogue that disagrees with his views. Of course not. This declaration, like the summit in general, was a waste of time for Cubans.

  • What does a “real policy” look like to you? The US has strong ties with at least 26 of the 33 CELAC nations. Our relationship with several of the larger and more powerful nations like Mexico are unparalleled. Is there room for improvement? Of course, but the US remains the largest trading partner to Latin America and Latin Americans have more family and friends living in the US than in any other country outside of Latin America. Your comment, unless better specified, is meaningless.

  • “Let us strengthen our democracies and all human rights for all, give our peoples greater opportunities, construct more inclusive societies”

    Raul had the gall to sign that declaration, at the same time that his repressive state security agents arrested over 1000 Cuban citizens, when his repudiation mobs threatened and harassed dissidents and the human rights of all Cubans are routinely denied by his dictatorship.

    Do you know what the real irony is? Any Cuban who dares to call for the Cuban government to honour that declaration will be arrested.

  • The US has no real policy regarding Latin America. Its embargo on Cuba is resulting in the US being left out rather than Cuba.

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