Cuba Summit Was Mostly Political Tourism (Circus)

Friday, January 31, 2014
Excerpt from Andres Oppenheimer's column in The Miami Herald:

As for the larger, much-publicized CELAC summit, one just needs to read its final declaration to realize it was a farce. The final declaration says participating countries “ratify our irrevocable will...to strengthen our democracies and all human rights for all.

It’s no joke: they pledged to strengthen democracy and human rights at a meeting presided over by Gen. Raúl Castro, a military ruler whose family dictatorship has not allowed a free election, political parties or independent media in 55 years.

What’s just as bad, they signed the declaration at the very same time as the Cuban regime was rounding up hundreds of dissident leaders to prevent them from holding peaceful demonstrations during the summit.

To his credit, [Chilean President Sebastian] Piñera met in Havana with Ladies in White opposition leader Berta Soler. And Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla sent a government delegation to meet with Cuban Human Rights Commission leaders.

The 70-point CELAC declaration was full of empty pledges to “continue advancing” toward Latin America’s economic integration,” but without any concrete steps to do so.

Sadly, there are now almost as many Latin American integration organizations as countries in the region.

Despite these summits, Latin America continues to be one of the least integrated regions in the world: only about 18 percent of Latin America’s total trade is within the region, as opposed to 65 percent of the European Union’s total trade, according to United Nations figures.

Why did Latin American presidents lend themselves to the CELAC charade? Mexico and Brazil want to be well positioned diplomatically and economically for the inevitable transition in Cuba. Other countries, in light of Cuba’s recent measures such as allowing its people to travel abroad, believe that it will be more effective to “accompany” the Cuban regime toward greater changes than antagonizing it.

My opinion: It was pathetic to see Latin American presidents waiting in line to appear in smiling pictures with Raúl and Fidel Castro. Many of these leaders will regret these pictures when the Castro brothers die, and the full extent of their human rights abuses comes to light.