Chairman Menendez to Panama: Cuba's Participation Would Undermine Summit

Thursday, October 2, 2014
Chairman Menendez Writes Panamanian President to Express Dismay Over Intent to Invite Cuba to 2015 Summit of the Americas

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent the following letter to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela regarding his intent to invite Cuba to the April 2015 Summit of the Americas.

The Honorable Juan Carlos Varela
Palacio de las Garzas
Eloy Alfaro Avenue
Panama City, Panama

Dear Mr. President:

Please allow me to express my congratulations on your election as the President of the Republic of Panama. As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I look forward to working with you and your administration to advance the historic relationship shared by our countries.

Your presidency comes at a moment of great opportunity for Panama, one marked by important economic growth and the opening of the long-awaited expansion of the Panama Canal. In this context, I wish you the utmost success as you set forth an agenda of inclusive development that promotes the security, prosperity, and social well-being of all Panamanians.

I also must take this opportunity to express my dismay over your administration’s intent to invite the Government of Cuba to attend the Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama in the upcoming year. Cuba’s participation would undermine the spirit and authority of the Summit of the Americas as a space to reaffirm the principles enshrined on the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the Organization of American States, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, as well as commitments made at past Summits.

At the Third Summit of the Americas in 2001, the democratically-elected leaders assembled in Quebec, Canada stated that “the maintenance and strengthening of the rule of law and strict respect for the democratic system 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.”

The Government of Cuba remains this hemisphere’s must enduring dictatorship, having deprived the people of Cuba of democratic rule for more than a half century. To this day, the Cuban Government continues to deny its citizens their most fundamental political and human rights, and criminalizes all forms of free expression, free association, and dissent in the country. The Government of Cuba fails to meet even the most minimal standard of democratic governance required for its participation at the Summit of the Americas.

I am particularly surprised by the intention to extend an invitation to the Government of Cuba, just one year after the Governments of North Korea and Cuba colluded in an attempt to smuggle arms and military equipment through the Panama Canal. That incident constituted the single largest violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1718 since its adoption in 2006.

In closing, I remain committed to strengthening the partnership between the U.S. and Panama. However, I am gravely concerned that inviting the Government of Cuba to the next Summit of the Americas sends the wrong message about the consolidation of democracy in the Americas, will dramatically weaken the democratic credentials of the premier meeting of heads of state in the hemisphere, and ultimately will undermine the validity of the Summits’ declarations.


U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez