Post-mortem on Fifth Summit of the Americas

Dr. Kwame Nantambu
April 23, 2009

Fifth Summit of the AmericasThe Fifth Summit of the Americas 17-19 April 2009 in Trinidad and Tobago has come and gone; its final Declaration of Port-of-Spain was not ‘signed, sealed and delivered’ by all thirty-four participating heads of government but most importantly, hemispheric leaders totally misunderstood, misread and miscalculated the formulation of US foreign policy toward the region.

Other things being equal, there were two main unwritten topics/items on the agenda for the leaders of governments: first, the re-entry/re-admission of Cuba as a full member of the Organization of American States (OAS) and second, the lifting of the US trade/economic embargo against Cuba. All leaders overtly verbalized their respective position, albeit demand, on these issues.

On the first issue, the stark reality is that the OAS Charter is specifically “convinced that representative democracy is an indispensable condition for the stability of peace and development of the region” and that “within the framework of democratic institutions, a system of individual liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man” must co-exist for membership.

On 23 January 1962, Cuba did not have a democratically-elected government; ergo, Cuba was in overt violation of the criterion for membership in the OAS. Cuba was thus expelled.

Now, the only raison d’etre that Cuba has not yet been eligible for re-admission to the OAS is simply because Cuba still does not have a democratically-elected government as of this April 2009 writing. As such, all of the so-called demands by leaders at the Fifth Summit of the Americas tantamount to hemispheric double-talk.

In other words, instead of making public demands on President Barack Obama in regard to Cuba, these leaders needed to look at themselves in the mirror. They needed to ensure, albeit demand, that Cuba adhered to the agreed criterion for membership eligibility in the OAS. That was their hemispheric political responsibility; it was not the responsibility of the President of the United States.

The correct position of the Obama administration is very simple: no democratically-elected government in Cuba, no Cuban membership in the OAS. This is a non-negotiable position in keeping with the mandate of the OAS Charter.

On the second issue, democratic governance and economic policy will always be natural inseparable twins in US-Cuban relations.

The fact of the matter is that a forty- seven year-old US economic/trade embargo policy against Cuba cannot be resolved/overturned in one swoop. US foreign policy does not work that way. Hemispheric leaders at the Fifth Summit of the Americas apparently ignored that American decision-making process.

The fact of the matter is that there are geo-political baby steps in US-Cuba relations. The Obama administration has already enacted certain concrete policy decisions whereby travel restrictions have been lifted for Cuban-Americans not only to freely visit families in Cuba but also to be able to send remittances to them.

As a result of these positive actions by the United States, the ball is now in the Cuban government’s court to enact similar geo-political baby steps such as freeing political prisoners, giving all Cubans the right to vote, the right to freedom of speech and assembly, the right to practice their own religion and the right to foreign travel, inter alia.

The fact of the matter is that US relations with Cuba must involve give and take on both sides. President Obama has put his geo-political cards on the table— the next move is on President Raul Castro of Cuba.

In the final analysis, the lifting of the trade/economic embargo against Cuba is a long, drawn-out process but it should not be one-sided. It takes two to tango. Now is the opportune time for hemispheric leaders who attended the Fifth Summit of the Americas to apply pressure on the Cuban government to respond in a most positive manner to the initiatives of President Barack Obama.

They need to realize that there are certain non-negotiable, specific political “conditionality measures” that the Obama administration has laid down not only for the lifting of the trade embargo against Cuba but also for Cuba to be a legitimate member of a democratic western hemisphere of nations. These leaders cannot have it both ways.

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

7 thoughts on “Post-mortem on Fifth Summit of the Americas”

  1. Nantambu’s naievete or ideological predisposition,or both, have rendered him blind to the realities being taken into consideration by hemespheric leaders who have now raised their voices to bring a halt to US policies toward Cuba.

    It is absolute nonsense to state that the criterion for OAS membership is a democratically elected government when it is clear that no country allied with the US has ever been expelled from the OAS when brutal dictators overthrew elected governments, organized death squads to murder political opponents,some of whom belonged to the clergy, and committed some of the most egregious human rights violations in such places as Chile, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

    As a professor, I expected you to recognize that the US has never frowned upon any nation or leader who becomes a willing pawn in the hands of transnational corporations. Thus, Israel has never been condemned or even challenged for its atrocities against the Palestininan people. You must also be aware that, in the case of apartheid South Africa, the US consistently maintained that economic sanctions would not hasten the death of apartheid. Yet, the same US advocated such measures against Libya, Iran, North Korea, and other sovereign nations not within the orbit of capitalist exploitation.

    Sovereignty conveys the right upon the people of any state to create their own institutions of government which are consistent with their own history, culture and collective expectations. Thus, it is not the place of the US to tell any nation what form of government it must adopt or demand that all of Latin America mimic the type of democracy that took root in the US under specific historical circumstances.

    CUba should be admitted to immediate, full and unconditional membership in the OAS. End the blockade, NOW!

  2. And furthermore! What concrete steps has the Obama administration taken, that Nantambu seems so enamoured with, that he now brazenly suggests Cuba must excercise some sort of reciprocity?

    I have not heard as much as an apology for the failed, US backed Bay of Pigs invasion. I did not hear Obama or any US official volunteer to extradite the murderer who placed a bomb on a Cubana airline and took the lives of Cuban children. Not so much as an expression of remorse for assassination attempts made on Fidel Castro and sabotage against the Cuban sugar industry, in the hope that the resulting economic hardships would ignite an overthrow of the government. What has Obama done or said to the Cuban families who lost babies because the criminal economic blockade prevented aspirin and antibiotics from getting to them in time to save their lives?

    This is the typical mentality of Trinidad’s “intellectuals.” So duped by the ideology that buttressed slavery, became the cornerstone of colonial domination and evolved further to aid and abet worldwide capitalist exploitation. The standard bearer of “democracy” and the loudest screamer of “human rights” violations, this alleged model of civilized society was holding human beings in bondage while professing belief in the equality of man. How did we become so blind to history? Why have logic and common sense not informed our analysis? Would you allow a slavemaster to lecture you about how much he reveres freedom? Why have you permitted a nation that has routinely violated international law with impunity, supplied arms and logistical support to prop up unpopular dictators, openly advocates and has no qualms about assassinating leaders with whom they disagree, illegally invades sovereign nations with military force to bring “regime change,” to dupe you into believing that they are not hypocrites?

    The American influence on TNT—our dress, food, music, movies, dog eat dog competition, elevation of the individual above the collective, stereotypes, racism—causes one to wonder if we would ever mature to the point where we would have a mind of our own.

    I tremble at the thought of what these “intellectuals” are teaching our children because the substance is not geared toward change but abject obedience, worshiping the US and making life richer and more profitable for exploiters and thieves as they pray for a better life after death and resurrection next to Jesus.

  3. I simply cannot leave this Nantambu nonsense alone!

    Here he is cheering on his feet about the “geo-political baby steps”—-meaningless gibberish that has no foundation as a term of art or otherwise— he says were taken by the Obama administration. He cites some removal of travel restrictions and Cubans residing in the US now being able to send money back to families in Cuba. Nantambu is so ecstatic about these that a non-thinking human being would have been misled to believe that the US had conveyed some sort of radical freedom that no other Americans are now or have ever been entitled to!

    This is some of the trickery that persons like Nantambu use to confuse and corrupt the thinking of decent citizens. Recall the days of the struggle for civil rights in the US. People like Nantambu were applauding the loudest when white segregationists “conceded” and allowed blacks the right to use the same toilets as whites. What great progress! The right to sit next to massa on the toilet, to eat in the same restaurant, go to the same school, drink water from the same fountain, live in the same neighborhood, and be buried in the same cemetery. Are these special rights or merely basic entitlements that all should enjoy by virtue of birth into the human family?

    By way of analogy, then why should Cuba have to provide any form of reciprocal conduct when the one who took away its entitlements as a sovereign nation now says we would restore some of your sovereignty, but we have additional demands and conditions that you must meet for this to be made possible?

    Similarly, Nantambu “educates” us to the possibility that 47 years of a criminal and illegal blockade of Cuba cannot come to an immediate cessation. In fact, he believes that Cuba must agree to certain conditions before this barrier is lifted. This is the illogical proposition that the criminal and the victim are both parties to a crime and, hence, must be held jointly responsible! Thus, if the criminal pulls the knife out of your back a little, then you must reciprocate his “kind” gestures, as a mark of gratitude, so to speak.

    Get beyond the code words used by Nantambu, the CIA, and the US State Department, and their demand becomes clear. We want Cuba to be restored as the playground of the mafia and a haven for US corporations. We want gambling and cock fights and prostitution, as part of the tourism infrastructure. We want corrupt governments, “democratically” elected at the polls, of course! We would be happy to sell you the old punch machines and the touch screens that stole two elections for George Bush, the younger.

    And why is the US being allowed to hypocritically speak about release of prisoners? Anyone who brings up such a subject with the US would be told, and correctly so, that this is interference in the internal affairs of the US. Thus, petitions filed with international tribunals on behalf of African-Americans and Native American Indians. alleging that they are being held captive as political prisoners in US prisons, have been routinely challenged by and dismissed on behalf of the US. While on this subject, let us not forget that this nation that peddles its phony brand of democracy—bourgeois democracy–worldwide has more of its citizens incarcerated than any other nation on earth. Of course, these inmates are disproportionately poor and from minority groups.

    Nantambu and others like him cannot be permitted to bastardize the English language and convey lies and propoganda on behalf of the exploiting classes they are allied with both materially, spiritually and ideologically.

  4. Gretings, my brother Neal!

    I become even more interested in dissecting Nantambu’s garbage because it presents a profile of what an intellectually dishonest, ideologically corrupt, paid apologist for capitalism looks and sounds like.

    These individuals are everywhere. They are in classrooms, lecture halls, community organizations, churches, “think tanks,”and, of course, in labor unions. Their role is to confuse the masses because it is well understood that incorrect analysis cannot lead to winning strategies and tactics to defeat the enemy. They create diversion, like when he opines, “instead of making public demands on President Barack Obama in regard to Cuba, these leaders needed to take a look at themselves in the mirror. They needed to ensure, albeit demand, that Cuba adhered to the agreed criterion for membership eligibility in the OAS. That was their hemispheric political responsibility; it was not the responsibility of the President of the United States.” In other words, the responsibility for ending the illegal, inhumane and criminal policies imposed upon a sovereign nation by the US, is now shifted and “delegated” to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and other leaders in the hemisphere who object and now demand the end to these atrocious policies against their sister nation. See the confusion and the red herring?

    The unsuspecting would be misled into thinking that the objecting nations were initial parties with the US in installing the economic embargo and blockade of Cuba. I believe I explained in a previous post how in Nantambu’s false construct of reality, the criminal and his victim are equally culpable for the acts perpetrated by the criminal,because, after all, without the victim there would have been no crime! Thus, they are jointly “responsible,” to use his words, for restoration of the status quo ante.

    In this case, Nantambu’s opportunism takes him even further beyond. He is even boldly stating that Cuba, the victim, owes and must make amends with the criminal as a condition for obtaining the rights and privileges granted to all other sovereign nations within the hemisphere.

    Then we wonder why the masses of TNT would not organize resistance to break the yoke of their oppression. This is the type of muddled thinking that they are subjected to on a daily basis. The victim is portrayed as the culprit who should have gone to school to get some skills. You are poor because you came from a “broken” home. You are penniless because you lack ambition. Never mind the fact that unemployment in TNT is soaring while profits continue to flow into the pockets of the capitalists.

    Manning and his government serve the interests of the exploiting class and Nantambu’s role is to confuse, frustrate, foster apathy, sap hope, present an aura of invincibility and permance to the system of oppression, and prevent the emergence of any mass movement that may lead to a government which serves the interests of the people of TNT.

    Remember, this is nothing new. The apologists for slavery and feudalism did the same. They portrayed these systems as the best and only worlds and the victims were told to accept their staus because it cannot change. Nevertheless, slavery and feudalism are now in the museum of history.

    I dare to hold firm the conviction that a similar fate awaits all systems that are bent upon oppression and exploitation.

  5. Change is a math formula . Change happens when the cost of the status quo is greater than the risk of change.” C(SQ)>R (C)
    Alan M. Webber : Cofounder Fast Company

    Triniaboard I am reading you loud and clear , and share most of the sentiments you express as you well know. I am however adopting a new strategy when it comes to moving forward , and achieving common goals and objectives. These are critical , yet exciting times that require visionary thinking and new age approaches . Others must become convinced not only that your way is correct, but it holds something of benefit to them as well . One must try and see beyond the dogma , and explore common interest.

    Collaborations between Civil Societies , governments , and business are essential as a way forward for most societies. What we need to figure out however,is where we can play a role of harnessing the resources of these three critical areas to ensure a win/ win result for all- bearing in mind the political realities on the ground both in the developed and developing societies.
    Cuba remains a complex political enigma domestically for this new American President , and so Caribbean leaders led by the more democratic nations in the English speaking region must continue to exert pressure and lead the efforts for change that can benefit both sides. Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela , and most definitely Mexico are critical players in the process for obvious political, economic and historic reasons. It is no secret remember , how Cuba was able to survive economically since the demise of the USSR.

    The Cuban government is also in a precarious position , as it’s leader’s 60 year legacy is on the line. The country lacks the economic recourses like Libya , Iran ,and Venezuela to continue to remain out in the cold when it comes to the USA. Changes are inevitable , again civil society might have to be the bridge while Castro is alive, and Raul and his military continues to run the show.
    This young US President for all his good intentions, would be eaten alive by political enemies at home if he cannot present a substantial ‘bone’ from Cuba before according any beneficial shift in policies to the island.
    Go a bit easy on brother Nantambu therefore, as his heart is obviously in the right place. Remember, those of us abroad , are not going to feel the ‘kitchen heat’ to the degree that our brothers and sister foot soldiers on the ground would. As such their approaches to the issues ,must of necessity be different. I see fully your point however ,about the corrupting influences of capitalism in academia, trade unions, think tanks , NGO’s , INGO’s , emerging and developing states in the global south etc. I am also cognizant of the long reaching impact of neocolonialism even today . Remember you are preaching to the converted here .
    We are however at a critical crossroad my friend, and the bigger challenge is to work together in a comprehensive , effective ,strategically beneficial fashion, so as to effect changes that can put all our skills to good use , irrespective of ‘where it might be located.’ That’s what’s so exciting about this global village of ours . We can all play a role to make effective changes and bridge the social and economic chasm that constitute the global north / south divide. Stay engage , and committed.
    In ending , I am saying the following: Changes are necessary and inevitable. Politics is everything and the key to relevant changes. Politics is all about compromise. Let’s emulate success.
    Warm regards.

  6. Very insightful and enlightening comments, Brother Neal! I also noted your mathematical equation regarding change. My understanding of it, and please correct me if I am in error, is that people would act to bring change when they perceive that the benefits of change far outweigh the risks to be taken in achieving it. This is a very interesting concept, but it appears to be more relevant in explaining management and organizational behavior in the decision-making context, than to an understanding of the objective and subjective conditions that create or retard a movement for social change.

    Sometimes you have to be careful with whom you make compromises. I believe Churchill made a compromise with Hitler and you know the result.

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