People first

Published 10:41 am Friday, July 3, 2009

The United States has no argument with the people of Cuba. It’s the government of Cuba that five decades of American leaders from both parties have opposed. And the reason for that opposition is the Cuban government’s treatment of its own citizens — denying them the ability to select their leaders in a democratic process and consistently violating their basic human rights.

If the goal is to succor the people of Cuba, then there’s a wide range of policies the United States can promote. Lifting restrictions on travel and the amount of aid Cuban Americans can send to family members, as the Obama administration has proposed, fits neatly with that objective.

Nothing, however, should be done to strengthen or legitimize the dictatorial rule of the Castro regime.

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Unfortunately, that’s what the Organization of American States — urged on by Venezuela and Nicaragua — seems to be doing by agreeing to re-admit Cuba to the Western Hemispheric grouping.

The OAS expelled Cuba in 1962 because of the incompatibility of its ruling ideology with the organization’s democratic standards, reaffirmed in the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter.

What has changed in Cuba since 1962? Not much.

A report issued last month by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights states, “Restrictions on political rights, freedom of expression and dissemination of ideas have created, over a period of decades, a situation of permanent and systematic violations of the fundamental rights of Cuban citizens.”

The United States was able to wring out a compromise that calls for a “process of dialogue” on Cuba’s “practices, proposals and principles” as part of its return to the OAS.

That’s a pretty nebulous concept.

Here’s a much-easier idea that diplomats from the Western Hemisphere’s democracies should remember: People first, governments second. —Express-News