Cuba Must Earn Place in Regional Fora

Friday, January 25, 2013
A few years ago, during remarks at a Washington International Trade Association (WITA) conference, we argued:

"Thirty-four (34) out of the thirty-five (35) nations of this Western Hemisphere are democratic.  Granted, we have better relationships with some than with others, and frankly, some are outright hostile to the U.S.  However, we cannot afford a return to the dictatorships -- whether of the left or of the right -- that ruled Latin America for most of the 20th century.  Some may have appeared to be good for business at the time, but they are all damaging to the 21st century national interests of the U.S.  Normalizing relations with Cuba's dictatorship would open a Pandora's Box that might lead to history repeating itself.  And trust me, there are plenty of leaders with authoritarian tendencies ready to take advantage of such a moment."

Today, The Financial Times' Editorial Board has expressed a similar concern:

Silly in Chile

A worthy EU-CELAC summit marred by outdated politics

It would be comic if it was not so tragic. This month, the 33-country Community of Latin American and Caribbean states, a regional grouping that lists democracy, human rights and prosperity among its core values, will swear in its new chairman: President Raúl Castro of Cuba. Yet Cuba has not had free elections or a free press for more than 50 years, and Mr. Castro is a throwback to the Latin America of sunglass-wearing generals. The 81-year-old communist will then become Latin America’s official spokesman in its trade talks with the EU.

His swearing-in will take place after this weekend’s two-day CELAC-EU summit in Chile. Among the heads of state present will be Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s prime minister, and José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission. The economic rationale for their trip is clear. Much of Latin America is booming, and Europe remains the region’s largest trade partner and investor. Politically, it is also better to engage with pariah states such as Cuba than exclude them, as Myanmar’s democratic transition shows. Still, the prospect of the German chancellor standing next to Mr Castro in the summit photograph beckons awfully. Perhaps the Europeans, so keen on human rights elsewhere, will avoid shaking his hand. That will show them.

Read the rest here.