Panama: Obama Rehabilitates the Castro Brothers

The Organization of American States is now open to dictatorships.

When the president of the United States, Barack Obama, travels to Panama this week to attend the seventh Summit of the Americas, expect a flood of clichés about the blossoming of democracy in the region. But don’t believe them. Repression is marching through the Americas, and U.S. ambivalence is part of the problem.

The intimidators from the region see the White House’s lack of moral clarity as a weakness. One result of this is that a backward Caribbean island, led by a pair of mafioso brothers, now has the advantage of setting the regional agenda.

Nobody should be surprised if the U.S. president is humiliated in Panama City, as he was in Port of Spain in 2009. Back then, Obama was trying to make friends with Hugo Chávez, who thanked him by giving him a copy of the famous anti-American diatribe, “The Open Veins of Latin America.”

These summits are a waste of time and money for real countries. But this one will be useful for Cuba, a country that will be allowed to join the group for the first time and on its own terms. It is difficult to decide what the worst part of Obama’s foreign policy is, but his despicable submission toward this meeting in America’s backyard is a serious contender.

For many years, Cuba has not been allowed to sit at the table with members of the Organization of American States. In April 2001, the participants at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec ratified a policy established to include only democratically elected governments. In September 2001, OAS members signed the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which demanded the suspension of non-democratic governments.

The charter had some effect in its first years, thanks to the influence of the United States and the fact that the OAS couldn’t pay its bills without Uncle Sam. But it started to weaken when Obama came to power and started to try to pacify Cuba and Venezuela. And this year, there’s not a trace left.

Being outcasts made Raúl and Fidel Castro feel disrespected, so they pressured a large part of the region to say that, if Cuba was excluded once again, they would boycott the event. In December, Obama yielded.

It is a sign of the bad state of affairs in the Americas. Authoritarian governments are in power in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Bolivia. All of them use, at different levels, at least some of the elements of the Cuban model, in which the army consolidates power, civil society is suppressed, and due process is a thing of the past.

Elections are fixed. The governments expropriate whenever they feel like it. Media outlets that dare to differ from the party’s guidelines face statuary charges, which condemn them to extinction.

The democratic institutions in Brazil and Chile still remain intact, but the socialist leaders in both countries are great admirers of the Castro brothers and it would never occur to them to offend their extreme left supporters. Colombia is compromised because of the advancing peace negotiations with the FARC narco-terrorists in Havana.

A handful of countries could have defended the principle of democracy if they had been sure of U.S. support. But the weak U.S. diplomatic team cannot face up to the Castros’ export of terror foreign policy. Nobody is going to put their hands into the fire with Obama in the White House. So, Cuba enters the OAS and Raúl will receive the expected legitimacy of a U.S. president.

The appeasement has brought about new demands. Some governments say that they will protest in Panama because the U.S. recently labeled Venezuela as a threat to national security and penalized seven Venezuelan civil servants. President Nicolás Maduro states that he has collected more than six million signatures in a letter of protest which he will deliver to Obama.

President Obama expects to be received in Panama as a hero, as the man who offered an opening of diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time in half a century. But Cuba has snubbed it. Castro says that he will not accept normal relations until, among other things, the island is taken off the list of states that sponsor terrorism and the U.S. gives back Guantanamo.

Fulfilling most of Cuba’s demands would require the U.S. Congress’s approval. But humoring Raúl will be a priority for Obama. The head of state could try to unilaterally take Havana off the list of sponsors of terrorism if he believes that he has the support that would assure his veto in the case of a challenge from Congress.

Here is where Cuban reality could interfere. The island is the home of Basque terrorists who are wanted in Spain and tens of fugitives from U.S. justice like Joanne Chesimard, who in 1973 was found guilty of assassinating a state policeman in New Jersey. The military dictatorship also arms and trains the FARC. Cuba wants to gain access to the U.S. banking system, but the banks would have to consider the legal risks which they would face if they received a client with a history of financially supporting terrorism and money laundering.

It will be difficult even for Obama to be popular at the Panama Summit, unless he decides to abandon the war against terrorism. Something which, even in this case, is less than likely.

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