Americas group lifts suspension of Cuba
Move ends ban imposed in 1962
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras - The Organization of American States voted by acclamation yesterday to revoke the 1962 measure suspending communist Cuba, overturning a landmark of the Cold War in the hemisphere.
"The Cold War has ended this day in San Pedro Sula," said Honduran President Manuel Zelaya. "We begin a new era of fraternity and tolerance."
The action doesn't mean Cuba will return to the 34-member body that helps coordinate policies and mediates disputes throughout the Americas. Cuban officials have repeatedly insisted they have no interest in returning to an organization they consider a tool of the United States.
And if Cuba changes its mind, the agreement calls for "a process of dialogue" in line with OAS "practices, proposals, and principles" - a veiled allusion to agreements on human rights and democracy.
"This is a moment of rejoicing for all of Latin America," Ecuador's Foreign Minister Fander Falconi said.
The decision was taken by consensus, meaning the United States accepted it, though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had lobbied personally for requiring Cuba to make democratic reforms and improve respect for human rights.
"The historic action taken today eliminates a distraction from the past and allows us to focus on the realities of today," State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said in Washington, D.C.
He said it would let officials "continue with the president's efforts to support the desire of the Cuban people to freely determine Cuba's future consistent with our core principles and those of the Americas."
Wood also portrayed the resolution's reference to OAS principles as a victory for US diplomacy, noting that most countries had favored automatically readmitting Cuba.
Only hours earlier, a State Department spokesman told reporters that failure to reach an agreement was "a clear sign of how the president's approach to relations in the Americas is paying dividends."
He said the main support for Cuba's return came from "countries like Nicaragua and Venezuela; they're the ones who have been trapped in the past" while the United States was celebrating "that the OAS is, in fact, a community of democracies."
Clinton herself left the meeting before the final vote. The meetings dragged on so long Tuesday night that she did not have time to deliver a prepared speech before flying out of Honduras to join President Obama in Egypt.
The United States won Cuba's suspension from the OAS in 1962. It was just nine months after Fidel Castro first publicly described Cuba's system as socialist and after a disastrous US-backed exile invasion of the country flopped at the Bay of Pigs.
But in recent years, with the Cold War fading and left-of-center governments spreading in the Americas, Cuba's isolation melted away. Every country in the hemisphere except for the United States has reestablished relations with Cuba and the US embargo of Cuba is deeply unpopular throughout the region.