from Pressure Points

The Latin American Summit Must Deal With Dictatorship in Cuba

April 12, 2018

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The Latin American summit meeting in Lima, Peru this coming weekend occurs just a week before Raul Castro "steps aside" and Cuba has a new president. But consider this anomaly: Venezuelan president Maduro has been excluded from the Summit because he is trying to turn Venezuela into a new Cuba--while the head of the actual Cuba is allowed to attend. It makes no sense.

Now, 34 Latin American heads of state and heads of government have joined together to protest Castro's presence and to urge that his "successor" not be recognized as the legitimate leader of Cuba. After all, there has never been a free election in Castro's Cuba, and the Cuban people had no say whatsoever in selecting Raul's "successor." I keep using quotation marks because Castro himself will remain head of the Cuban Communist Party, so how much power he is actually giving up remains to be seen. 

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The 34 Latin leaders should get U.S. support. The Miami Herald story says this:

Former Latin American presidents on Wednesday urged participants in the upcoming VIII Summit of the Americas to reject the new Cuban government scheduled to take power next week. The former leaders of Costa Rica, Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, issued the statement on behalf of the 37 former heads of state and government that are part of the Democratic Initiative in Spain and the Americas.

They urged summit participants to “reject the presidential elections called by the dictatorship” and “refuse to recognize as legitimate the newly elected members of the National Assembly, the Council of State and its president because they do not represent the will of the people.” The declaration, read from the halls of the Peruvian congress, also demands an end to the Cuban government's repression of opponents and the release of political prisoners.

Vice President Pence will represent the United States at the Summit. His remarks should note this appeal from the 34 Latin American democratic leaders, and back it. Raul Castro should never have been allowed to attend, and there should be no recognition of what former Bolivian president Jorge Quiroga correctly called “dynastic succession … a change of tyrants in a dictatorial system” in Cuba. The Herald reports that "the former government leaders also endorsed a proposal for a binding plebiscite on whether Cubans want 'free, just and pluralistic elections' pushed by the Cubadecide coalition headed by Cuban opposition activist Rosa María Payá." So should Mr. Pence, who should equally back the call to release all political prisoners in Cuba. If hemispheric solidarity for freedom is the central theme of his remarks, this could be a historic speech.

 

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