Rubin: Reintegration Requires Reform
By Alex Rubin, Staff Columnist
Published on Tuesday, April 17, 2012
This past weekend, President Barack Obama traveled to Cartagena, Colombia to attend the Summit of the Americas hosted by the Organization of American States. Although the summit made progress in easing inequality and other gaps between the United States, Canada and Latin America, the debate stalled over the issue of whether to reinstate Cuba into the OAS and allow the country to attend future summits.
Many Latin American nations have criticized the United States for its embargo on Cuba and its continued practice of isolating the island nation. However, to include the oppressive regime of the Castro brothers into the OAS, weeks after it committed oppressive crackdowns on peaceful democratic protesters, would be to disgrace the principles of American foreign policy and society. It is in the interest of the region to reintegrate Cuba, but such an action must be taken solely with the aim of promoting a more democratic and open Cuban government. Thus, giving Cuba membership in the OAS must be in response to signs that the Cuban regime is submitting to international pressure — not just U.S. pressure — to reform their governmental institutions.
U.S. relations with China were improved under the Nixon administration through increased contact and China’s reintegration to the international community. This should be the same objective of any U.S.-Cuban policy. The idea that the Cuban regime can be waited out, or that it will fall under its own volition from internal pressures, has proven, at least in the short term, to be unrealistic. Therefore, the U.S. must move to reform the Castro government through engagement and reintegration. However, this process must be started in response to signs from the Castro government that it is willing to reform. Such interactions must be driven, like our opening to China, with the expressed aim and unrelenting pressure to restore Cuba’s democratic institutions and to promote greater freedom for the Cuban people.
Whether or not American policies, specifically the embargo, are either functional or beneficial to progress in reforming Cuba or the U.S.-Cuban relationship are irrelevant to this argument. The issue at hand is whether the incorporation of Cuba into the OAS and its inclusion in its summits will promote reform in the island nation and foster better relations between the United States and Cuba. Some argue that international organizations can better pressure its members than individual states. However, Iran and North Korea have shown that such international pressure is not sufficient or effective in curbing their nuclear development. Therefore, the premise that including Cuba in the OAS will allow the OAS and the U.S. to better pressure the Castro government is misguided. By contrast, allowing Cuba to join the OAS at this time, weeks after the government’s crackdown on peaceful protestors during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the nation, would demonstrate that the regional community is willing to ignore — and to legitimize — the illegal and inhumane practices of the Castro government in the name of regional integration.
Further, it is not in the interest of the OAS to include the nation of Cuba. As ideological differences have grown between the United States and the leaders of Latin America, the OAS has become less relevant to regional affairs. Therefore, including Cuba in the organization would only add to the ideological polarization and contribute to further inaction in addressing the pressing concerns facing the region, such as the drug war and economic deficiencies and inequalities. The addition of Cuba would add strains to the debate within the OAS, as it would incorporate longstanding conflicts that are unlikely to change, subsequently stalling any actions aimed at addressing a variety of other issues that the OAS is in a position to address.
To incorporate Cuba into the OAS would reward the Castro regime for its brutal crackdowns on peaceful protesters, as well as legitimize such action within the spoke of promoting regional integration. The isolated island nation must be eventually reintegrated into the regional community. However, this process must begin with signs on the part of the Castro brothers that their regime is open to reform and is willing to follow international standards of governing.