Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Do as we say...
As President Obama heads to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, his administration finally releases the last (we hope) of the torture memos. (Curious that the wingers have no problem with things like torture, secret detentions, sneak and peak searches, forcing librarians to divulge customer reading habits, infiltration of Quaker peace groups etc., but they're all a-teabaggin' over a 4 percent increase in rich people's taxes... but I digress...)

Meanwhile, here in Florida, Cuban-Americans are needled by the fact that several Latin American presidents, including Lula of Brazil, Hugo of Venezuela and Evo of Bolivia, among others, will likely push for an end to Cuba's exclusion from the Organization of American States, which forms the attendance base of the summit. Writes the Miami Herald's Myriam Marquez:

Cuba's not invited to the big party in Trinidad and Tobago, but it will crash it anyway.

It'll be the pesky ghost at the table, pushing, shoving and booing -- all in an effort to derail President Barack Obama's first foray Friday into Latin America's often messy love-hate relationship with the United States.

With the help of Hugo, Lula, Evo, Daniel, Michelle, Cristina and many other Latin American presidents who learned how to play leftie politics -- and win -- virtually at Fidel Castro's knee, the ghost is demanding a clean slate and collective amnesia.

Forget 50 years of an atrocious human-rights record. Never mind that there are no property rights, labor unions or free speech.

Forget multiparty elections, the ghost thunders, it's tiny Cuba vs. the bad Imperialist Goliath.

Obama would rather forget, too, but he's not ready to deliver more freebies like the end of the U.S. embargo or the tourist ban -- yet. But as first steps, he has opened the door wide for Cuban-American travel and unlimited remittances to Cuba.

He figures that's enough to get the ghost off his back at the summit, where Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has vowed to press for the island's membership in the Organization of American States.

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza told Herald reporter Frances Robles at the summit Thursday that he agrees. Obama counters that Cuba needs to first show it belongs back in the organization that kicked it out in 1962.

Fidel Castro rails against any such inclusion in the OAS, calling it a tool of U.S. will. One reason he won't give: Cuba doesn't begin to meet the principle of the OAS charter -- democracy.

Ironically enough, the "Inter-American Democracy Charter"was adopted by the OAS on September 11, 2001 during a special session in Peru, hours after the 9/11 attacks in New York. The charter lays out the essentials of regional cooperation, democracy, the need to fight poverty and improve education and the environment, and of course human rights -- which brings us back to Cuba, which has got some issues on that front. And yet, as Marquez points out, over the last eight years the U.S. hasn't exactly been a champion of human rights, either (see "torture memos" above...) So Obama goes into the summit borne on the winds of change, but still refusing, as of yesterday, to hold the previous administration accountable for the human rights abuses that, if we were, say, applying for membership to the OAS today, would likely make us as ineligible as Fidel's Cuba.

Related: Raul says he's willing to talk to the U.S., including about human rights.

Cuban President Raul Castro has said he is willing to talk to Washington about everything, including human rights, political prisoners and press freedom.

His comments came hours after US President Barack Obama said Cuba needed to make the next move if there was to be further improvement in relations.

Mr Castro was speaking in Venezuela ahead of a Summit of the Americas.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he will veto any final declaration as Cuba is excluded from the meeting.

The summit, due to start in Trinidad, includes 34 Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The US has said the gathering is reserved for democratic nations.

Which brings us back to our checkered recent past:

Speaking to Latin American leaders in Venezuela, President Castro said he had sent word to the US government "in private and in public" that he is open to negotiations as long as it is "on equal terms".

Alas, amigos, we're pretty much already on equal terms. More on the potential thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations here.

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posted by JReid @ 7:46 AM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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