Well, it was not a summit meeting where the United States just preached.
Instead, the Latin American nations at this summit, as elsewhere, are trying to lead the United States to think differently about the war on drugs that is ravaging many of their countries. The host, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, pointed out that that war was declared by President Nixon in 1971, but in fact dates back 100 years to the International Opium Convention.
Santos also expressed what seems to be very close to a hemispheric consensus: that Cuba should be at the next Summit of the Americas regardless of the issue of Cuba’s suspended membership in the OAS and any steps it may take to regain its seat, regardless of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, regardless of anything. Contrary to the U.S. position, the idea seems to be that it’s just a meeting, and Cuba should be there.
Whether Cuba would want to attend if invited is another issue altogether.
This issue and that of Argentina’s claim to the Falklands caused the summit to end without a consensus declaration. (New York Times story here.)
Santos’ opening address on Saturday was built in part around the theme of building bridges, a theme he invoked as he noted the failure of “isolation, the embargo, indifference, looking the other way” in his discussion of Cuba. This passage in his address was interrupted by sustained applause:
Another example of the consequences of not overcoming the paradigms of the past – of the absence of bridges and creativity – is the case of Cuba.
Isolation, the embargo, indifference, looking the other way – these have all shown their ineffectiveness.
In today’s world this path cannot be justified. It is an anachronism that keeps us anchored to a Cold War era that was overcome a few decades ago.
Just as it would be unacceptable to have another hemispheric meeting with an incapacitated Haiti, it would also be unacceptable without Cuba present.
We cannot be indifferent to a process of change inside Cuba that is becoming more and more broadly recognized; and also, this change should continue.
It is time to overcome the paralysis that comes from ideological stubbornness, and to look for minimal consensus so that this process of change may succeed. For whose good? Well, for that of the Cuban people.
And for that we need to build bridges.