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Let Cuba Live
Cuba propels Latin American Integrationby Tom Whitney Jr., September 1, 2012
News reports in August said the right wing Colombian government and. leftist guerrillas would begin negotiations to end 50 years of civil war. Preparatory talks took place in Havana, and negotiations will return there after starting up in Oslo, Norway. That Cuba was facilitating the process signals a now important role for Cuba in Latin American affairs. That’s especially true regarding Latin American integration.
In April, 1948, Cuba and other docile Latin American nations attended a conference in Bogota presided over by U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall. The United States, intent upon recruiting Latin America for the cold war, was converting the Pan American Union into the Organization of American States (OAS). Indeed, The OAS expelled revolutionary Cuba in 1962.
The OAS readmitted Cuba in 2009, but the United States insisted on conditions and Cuba stayed away. The April, 2012 OAS Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia served to validate respect for Cuba in Latin America. Because Cuba was not there, two presidents stayed away and several of those attending called for no more OAS summits without Cuba.
The turn-around follows 50 years of Cuban resistance to multi-faceted assault from the United States and success in pursuing revolutionary goals of social justice and international solidarity. A region that “has specialized in losing ever since those remote times when Renaissance Europeans ventured across the ocean” (Galeano, “Open Veins of Latin America”) had a model to emulate, a winner.
Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution led by President Chavez added to a climate of new confidence, one on display in Argentina in 2005 when, at a continent-wide summit meeting, collective fight-back buried the U.S. engineered, corporation friendly Free Trade Area of the Americas. Confidence is evident too in the flourishing of multi-national alliances.
Joined now by 12 nations, the Union of South American Nations was formed in 2008 to undertake joint defense, economic development, and infrastructure projects. Mercosur, 21 years old, is a six-nation, now expanding South American customs union and common market. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations (CELAC), comprising every American nation except Canada and the United States, evolved from earlier integrationist unions. At the inaugural meeting in December, 2011 Cuban President Raul Castro proclaimed, “For the first time in history we’ll have an organization of Our America…It [may] be the greatest happening in 200 years of Latin American and Caribbean semi-independence.”
CELAC is undertaking financial and banking innovations, telecommunications projects, and new approaches to environmental sustainability, migration, hunger, poverty and illiteracy. In mid 2012, representatives of Cuba, Venezuela, and Chile were in India and China looking for CELAC trade openings. Delegation member Nicolás Maduro, the Venezuelan foreign minister, explained that, “China and India are emerging powers in a multi-polar world, as is Latin America.”
Cuba and Venezuela initiated the now nine-nation The Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our America, known as ALBA, in 2004. That organization organizes cooperative ventures ranging from health care, education, communications, and banking to regional commercial and economic development initiatives, all organized on the basis of solidarity exchanges.
Integrationist stirrings began almost two centuries ago when Venezuelan Simon Bolivar used his army to unify newly independent nations, and failed. He warned of a common adversary: “The United States appear to be destined by Providence to plague America with misery in the name of liberty.”
Cuba’s identification with the integration movement stems from the revolutionary organizing, and especially the ideas of independence hero Jose Marti. “Trenches of ideas are worth more than trenches of stone,” he writes in “Our America,” his famous essay published in Mexico City in 1892. European prescriptions and attitudes, he taught, don’t apply to the indigenous, African-descended, and country-dwelling masses of Our America. In fact, “In America the natural man has triumphed over the imported book... over an artificial intelligentsia,” So, “Make wine from plantains; it may be sour, but it is our wine!”
Marti warned of “Our America’s greatest danger:” She “will be approached by an enterprising and forceful nation that will demand intimate relations with her, though it does not know her and disdains her.” The ground is prepared, however. “From the Rio Bravo to the Straits of Magellan, the Great Cemi, seated on a condor's back, has scattered the seeds of the new America across the romantic (i.e. Spanish and Portuguese-speaking) nations of the continent and the suffering islands of the sea!”
N. B. The Great Cemi is a totem worshipped by Taino Indians. “Rio Bravo” signifies the Rio Grande.)