You Can't "Save" the Summit Without Its "Democracy Clause"

Thursday, September 11, 2014
The Brookings Institution's Richard Feinberg wrote a long post in Americas Quarterly (AQ) about how the Summit of the Americas process can be "saved".

Feinberg weaves a long, convoluted discussion, but never answers the question -- mostly because he fails to pose the correct question (or any question, for that matter).

The correct question is: Can the Summit of the Americas process be saved, while violating its "democracy clause" through Cuba's participation?

For Feinberg, the "democracy clause" is apparently nonexistent and irrelevant. But that's not surprising, for in all of Brookings' Cuba reports, human rights and democracy are irrelevant as well.

Feinberg and Brookings only care about how to embrace Castro's regime and doing business on the island.

Consequently, his only (repetitive) argument is that if the U.S. eases sanctions before the upcoming 2015 Summit in Panama, then President Obama would be welcomed as some sort of "hero."

Sound familiar?

This was the same argument given prior to the 2009 Summit in Trinidad and Tobago. On the very same week of that Summit, Obama eased a set of sanctions towards Cuba and was received in Trinidad -- not as a "hero" -- but as a push-over.

We all remember Hugo Chavez's theatrics, handing him "Open Veins of Latin America" (which even its author, Eduardo Galeano, now repents writing), and the downhill slope of events later that year -- at the OAS General Assembly, Honduras, Venezuela, Cuba's hostage-taking, et. al.

Moreover, the point is not for President Obama to be welcomed as a "hero" (because he acquiesced to the whims of a dictatorship and its cohorts) -- or to be the most popular kid in class -- but to be seen as a leader that stands for the hard-fought progress of democracy in the Americas.

So let's help Feinberg answer the correct question:

As we all know, the Summit of the Americas is a gathering of the 34 democratically-elected leaders -- out of 35 nations -- in the Western Hemisphere.

It was during the April 2001 Summit, held in Quebec, Canada, that the 34 leaders of these democracies historically declared:

The maintenance and strengthening of the rule of law and strict respect for the democratic system are, at the same time, a goal and a shared commitment and are an essential condition of our presence at this and future Summits. Consequently, any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order in a state of the Hemisphere constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the participation of that state's government in the Summit of the Americas process.”

And on a very fateful date, on September 11, 2001, just a few months after the Quebec declaration, this hemispheric commitment would be enshrined in international law, under Article 2 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which holds:

The effective exercise of representative democracy is the basis for the rule of law and of the constitutional regimes of the member states of the Organization of American States. Representative democracy is strengthened and deepened by permanent, ethical, and responsible participation of the citizenry within a legal framework conforming to the respective constitutional order.”

Hence: Can the Summit of the Americas process be "saved," while violating its "democracy clause" through Cuba's participation?

No -- a collapse of the "democracy clause" would be a collapse of the Summit process.

Cuba and its wanna-be authoritarian cohorts know this very well, which is precisely why they are so forceful about Castro's participation.

To "save" the Summit process, its "democracy clause" must be preserved.

Thus, the United States must stand unequivocally in defense of the "democracy clause" against the encroachment of Cuba and its cohorts.

It's no surprise that other Latin American nations are willing to violate their democratic commitments to the Summit process -- either due to their own authoritarian ambitions or fear of Cuba/Venezuela's thuggery.

But this should not even be an option for the United States -- its participation must be conditioned on respect for the Summit's "democracy clause."