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OAS removes hurdle to Havana's membership

Video by Sophie DAVIDSON


Latest update : 2009-06-04

Members of the Organisation of American States, including the United States, have voted by consensus to revoke a 1962 anti-communist clause that had prevented Cuba's admission, removing a half-century-old remnant of the Cold War.

AFP - The Organisation of American States, in an historic move, agreed Wednesday to readmit Cuba, revoking a half-century old clause that barred the island because of its Marxist orientation.

The move, agreed by a consensus vote that included the United States, Cuba's longtime foe, sweeps away an anti-Communist clause that had been part of the organisation's charter since 1962.

Ecuador's foreign minister Fander Falconi said Havana's readmission to the hemispheric group would be "without conditions."

However, the text also calls for all members to embrace the text within the charter that stresses the OAS's adherence to democratic principles.

The decision followed concerted moves by the United States to impose conditions on Cuba's return to the 34-member OAS, which excluded Havana during the Cold War because of its Soviet bloc ties.

Washington, however, opted not to oppose the vote in the increasingly left-leaning hemispheric organisation, officials said, and found itself isolated in a losing battle against most of the other member countries.

The vote, on the final day of the OAS' policy-making general assembly in the northern Honduran commercial hub of San Pedro Sula, came after Washington failed in a marathon bid to broker a deal that would have imposed conditions on Cuba's to return to the organisation.

Washington had hoped to convince fellow members to sustain the suspension until Havana agreed to make inroads on human rights.

But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said late Tuesday she had failed to find common ground with her Latin American counterparts before taking a flight to Egypt where she joined President Barack Obama.

The chief US diplomat suggested that the United States was largely isolated in its push to attach strict conditions on granting Cuba a full return to the Washington-based organisation's work.

Leftist Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua were among the countries that prevailed in their efforts to readmit Cuba, and were among the countries leading the charge to immediately end Havana's decades-old suspension, which they call a "historic mistake.

For its part, Cuba -- the Americas' only one-party communist regime, and a harsh OAS critic -- has shown no interest in rejoining the organisation, which it derided this week as a "pestilent corpse" in state media.

Although political parties other than the Cuban Communist Party are outlawed in Cuba, Havana maintains that Cuba is a democracy, and far less corrupt than other multiparty governments.

The US State Department's top diplomat for Latin America Tom Shannon said after the vote that the resolution addresses "the historic divide" which for decades has proved to be an intractable wedge between left- and right-leaning countries of the Americas.

He said excising the clause removes "an historical impediment to Cuba's participation" in the OAS.

Meanwhile, a State Department spokesman in Washington said Wednesday that Cuba's return to the Organisation of American States will meet the principles of human rights and democracy.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Washington had worked "tirelessly" to ensure "the return of Cuba to participation in the OAS will be done consistent with the principles and purposes of the democracy and human rights," he said.

Date created : 2009-06-03