Rubio to Kerry: U.S. Must Defend Summit's Democracy Clause

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
October 21, 2014

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

With the Seventh Summit of the Americas quickly approaching, I am deeply concerned that the Administration has sent mixed messages to the Panamanian government regarding the participation of undemocratic countries. During the 2001 Summit in Quebec City, the United States made a formal commitment that a democratic system is an “essential condition of our presence at this and future Summits”. Thus, as a non-democracy, Cuba should remain excluded from the Summit.

Just last month, State Department spokesperson, Jen Psaki, stated: “[O]ur view is that at the 2001 Summit of the Americas, all participating governments agreed to consensus that ‘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.’ So we should not undermine commitments previously made, but should instead encourage – and this is certainly our effort – the democratic changes necessary for Cuba to meet the basic qualifications.

Then, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, emphasized: “I think we have made clear that we believe the Summit process is committed to democratic governance and we think that the governments that are sitting at that table ought to be committed to the Summit principles, which include democratic governance.

Those words will stand hollow if our country fails to stand by these principles. Furthermore, allowing a country that is a habitual violator of human rights and has not allowed a free election in over 50 years would damage everything that the Summit wishes to accomplish. Cuba should not be allowed to undermine the commitment to democracy made by the remaining nations of the Western Hemisphere during the Summit process.  Moreover, the United States should not stand idly by if Panama does indeed intend to invite Cuba to the Summit.

Unfortunately, that seems to be precisely the mixed message sent recently by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, John Feeley, who told the Panamanian media that "it’s not so important the guests at the table but the meal that’s served."

I urge you to reaffirm the United States’ position that Cuba should only be welcome to participate in the Summit when the Castro regime abandons its repression of the island’s population and to ensure that the nations of the Western Hemisphere are left with no doubt that the United States will stand firmly behind the formal commitment it made at the Quebec Summit.


Marco Rubio
United States Senator