U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
The State Department web site below is a permanent electronic archive of information released online from January 1, 1997 to January 20, 2001. Please see www.state.gov for current material from the Department of State. Or visit http://2001-2009.state.gov for information from that period. Archive sites are not updated, so external links may no longer function. Contact us with any questions about finding information. NOTE: External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.
U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Ambassador Victor Marrero
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States
at a Meeting of the OAS Permanent Council
April 22, 1998

Flag bar

I take the floor to address the comments of our colleague from Mexico regarding the reintegration of Cuba into the Inter-American System. Recently, a number of other delegations have made similar interventions here and elsewhere on this subject. I believe it is important for my delegation to reiterate the basis for the exclusion of the present Government of Cuba from participation in the Organization of American States, and the reasons why my government believes that it is imperative for the OAS to continue Cuba's suspension.
As a starting point we should remind ourselves that this Organization is a closely knit society brought together by a shared belief in certain fundamental principles. We are a comity of democracy. Around this table our nations work in harmony, cooperatively and constructively, bonded in friendship and purpose by the values to which we all adhere. Like members of any institution, it is incumbent upon us--if we wish that institution to continue to fulfill its purposes and thus to thrive--to establish the essential conditions that define eligibility for admission of its members and for their continuation in good standing.
In this regard, this Organization has expressed itself unequivocally, in its Charter, in binding instruments and by other means, on the critical values we stand for jointly and severally. The protection and promotion of human rights, the unfettered exercise of fundamental freedoms, the vigorous practice of true representative democracy, and open market economies are all integral to each of our systems of government. The principles and purposes of this Organization enumerated in its Charter enshrine these norms. Continuing progress toward our shared goals, continuing harmony within our community of democratic societies, and continuing unified support from all our governments for the work of this Organization rest essentially upon our ability to maintain consensus among us with respect to the indispensability of these tenets as preconditions for participation of members in this body.
The Government of Cuba is the only one of the 35 independent nations in this hemisphere that actively rejects rather than subscribes to or practices the basic principles to which the rest of us are unreservedly committed. Its own official doctrines with regard to real democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms, are irreconcilably inimical to those which unite the 34 of us democratic states around this table. I do not see how we could work productively on perfecting our alliance of democracies if among us today one member remained the very embodiment of dogma and practices that are fundamentally undemocratic. How could we speak credibly about enlarging freedom for all our people if the people of one of our countries remained deprived of freedom--effectively fettered, silenced, disenfranchised? In a similar vein, how can we sustain and enhance the solid consensus we have laboriously strived to establish in the hemisphere on human rights if one of our members not only rejected our core working premises, but notoriously denied its citizens basic liberties, and constantly sought to pull us incongruously in a contrary direction? And would it not betray the vital intent of the Protocol of Washington, only recently given effect, were we to consider suspending any of our members for interruption of its democracy by force, if we gave free passage for membership in our community to a regime that has suppressed democracy and ruled its people by force uninterruptedly for almost 40 years?
I think we can all agree, Mr. Chairman, that these prospects would open profound rifts within our Organization, strain our solidarity, and call the OAS' credibility into question. For these reasons, the fact is that if the current government of Cuba had not previously been suspended from the OAS, today it would have to be excluded, if we were to apply honestly and abide faithfully by the commitment to democratic values we now live by in the Organization.
In past months--and particularly following the visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba--some commentators have described what they believe to be signs of potential change by the Castro Government in its performance in the area of democracy and human rights.
We believe that such analysis is not supported by the facts: The unfortunate truth is that the Castro regime remains fully committed to maintaining the failed and oppressive system of Marxism-Leninism which has deprived the Cuban people of the democratic freedoms we have come to take for granted in the rest of the hemisphere. The Cuban leadership still describes Cuba in the same terms as those used in its Constitution, as a Marxist-Leninist state with a Marxist-Leninist political philosophy that rejects the principle of "representative democracy" on which the OAS Charter is based. For instance, Article 62 of that Constitution states: "none of the freedoms which are recognized for citizens can be exercised contrary to . . . [the] decision of the Cuban people to build socialism and communism." A "decision" taken for the Cuban people, of course, by an unelected government propped up by all the repressive machinery of dictatorship--secret government policies, muzzling of free expression, imprisonment for political "crimes," stifling of non-governmental organizations, and the like.
According to the estimates of Amnesty International, there are at least 600 prisoners of conscience in Cuban jails. Other human rights organizations such as Freedom House place the figure as high as 3,000-4,000.
Much has been made in some quarters of President Castro's promise to the Pope to release several dozen prisoners on the Vatican's list. Yet it is unclear whether, as the Pope requested, these persons will be reintegrated into Cuban society. There is no reason to believe that any of them will be permitted to resume their fight for greater freedom for the Cuban people. Indeed, some of those released were required to leave Cuba. As Cuba's foreign minister said, "the pardon was not done with the intention of stimulating internal dissent activities." Meanwhile, the great majority of Cuban political prisoners remain incarcerated without real prospect of reprieve.
My government has the most profound respect for the Pope's moving engagement on behalf of democracy during his trip to Cuba. During that visit the Pope carried a direct, unambiguous message of hope, truth, and freedom to the Cuban people. That is a message this Organization collectively, and our countries individually, should seek to reinforce at every turn. There should never be a time to yield on our commitment to principles we hold dear. And if ever there was a time and a place and a reason to remain steadfast to basic principle, it is in regard to our commitment to democracy in Cuba now. The Cuban regime today--as it was in 1962 when it was excluded from participation in the OAS--is still based on constricting doctrines fundamentally at odds with the freedom values enshrined in the explicit language of the OAS Charter and reflected in the Pope's message.
My country looks forward to the day when we could welcome to this body the representative of a truly democratic government of the people of Cuba. We recognize the need to prepare the way for a peaceful transition to democracy by finding ways to strengthen Cuban civil society. It is with that in mind that on March 20 President Clinton took steps aimed at providing maximum support to the Cuban people--including the strengthening of civil society--without supporting a Cuban Government marked by continued repression of human rights, intransigence toward democratic change, and refusal to reform a failed economic system which have plunged the Cuban people into unnecessary want and deprivation.
Mr. Chairman, while the Cuban people deserve representation in this body, let us ask ourselves on their behalf some vital questions: Who today would legitimately represent all of them, and their yearnings for democracy, their aspirations for basic liberties, their legitimate interests in enjoying human rights and fundamental freedoms? Can any one in this room validly claim that the Government of Cuba exercises power over its people by the same means, and by the same authorized democratic processes, that bind the rest of us in our own governments' covenants with our people? Who can document to the satisfaction of everyone else around this table that the Cuban people enjoy truly free and fair elections, unrestricted political party organization, open expression, a free press?
Until Cuba does truly fulfill the basic conditions for representative democracy, debating its return to a democratic organization from which it excludes itself by its own behavior would, in the view of my delegation, be unproductive and divisive. It would detract substantial attention from more important matters before us. For those who wish to debate Cuba's reintegration into the Inter-American System, we would suggest a more constructive course. Propose for our consideration the necessary values, consistent with our Charter principles, that we could all agree upon that the Cuban Government must adopt and practice for its readmission to this Organization, and then press the Castro regime to respond to those prerequisites in good faith.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[end of document]

Blue Bar

Great Seal Return to the DOSFAN Home Page. This is an official U.S. Government source for information on the WWW. Inclusion of non-U.S. Government links does not imply endorsement of contents.