Guest Post by Patrick Doherty: OAS Kerfluffle Points to New Hemispheric Consensus


(Patrick Doherty directs the New America Foundation/U.S.-Cuba 21st Centry Policy Initiative.)
With the Organization of American States diplomatic maneuvering around the exclusion of Cuba hitting the Washington Post today, it seems like a good time to cut through all the inside baseball and get right to the real important message:
Latin America has made Cuba its cause celebre, and the analogy is to Palestine.
In other words, if the United States wants to do business with the region and to lead the region, it is time for the Obama administration to deliver change they can believe in and the threshold is set high: ending the embargo on Cuba.
The Palestine analogy is early, but we have three very good data points on which to base it. First, in December 2008 at a meeting of the Rio Group of Latin American heads of state, one of the only issues the summit was able to agree on was that the incoming Obama administration needs to end its embargo of Cuba.
Second, in Trinidad at the Summit of the Americas, while Cuba was not on the formal agenda, Cuba was the major topic of conversation both at the summit and in the media. As my colleauge Phil Peters points out, Trinidad was really a Cuba summit.
The third data point is this diplomatic full court press in the run up to the Honduras Ministerial of the Organization of American States, in which multiple sub-groupings of states have submitted a variety of proposals for repealing the act which expelled Cuba from the organization in 1962.
All three point to one clear message: the price of a new relationship with Latin America is ending the dysfunctional legacy of our old ones, in particular, the indiscriminate and disproportionate economic embargo the United States maintains on Cuba. That’s pretty close to the formula that the Arab world has used for at least two decades with Palestine: don’t think we are going to help you move your regional agenda forward until you help us out on getting a Palestinian peace deal done.
The test, of course, will be whether the individual nations of the Hemisphere decide to subordinate their bi-lateral relationships with the United States to this agenda. Again, my sense is that this will look like the Palestinian issue in the Arab world: relationships will remain multi-dimensional but in the aggregate, to the extent the Cuba issue remains an open sore, U.S. interests in the region will suffer from excessive friction and, in some cases, outright resistance.
We need to be clear, however, that this sentiment is not something led by Hugo Chavez, though he and his Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America group of nations are certainly enjoying this drama and stand to benefit from any outcome that further isolates the United States from the other countries of the Hemisphere. Rather, this is something larger, hemispheric, about righting the relationship between the United States and our near abroad and in so doing, closing the chapter on coercive American intervention in Latin America for good.
But one must be realistic and ask whether this diplomatic theater will even register on Mr. Obama’s radar screen. Given his plate of global issues, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, the financial crisis and climate change and his incremental, issue-by-issue approach to them, right now the answer is probably not. It has registered on the Secretary of State’s radar but that is not good enough to get a resolution. Mrs. Clinton can only manage a bad hand without a strategic decision from her boss. And if this sore is left to fester for too long, when the Obama administration does turn to Latin America it may find out that we have no OAS, we have no trust, and that China, Europe and other powers have left little space for the U.S. to pursue even our shared interests.
— Patrick Doherty


9 comments on “Guest Post by Patrick Doherty: OAS Kerfluffle Points to New Hemispheric Consensus

  1. Kathleen says:

    Mr. Murder….thanxxxx for the juicy scoop on Berlusconi…it makes me laugh…I wish the article stated where in Sardinia his villa is…I’d bet Porto Cervo on the Costa Esmeralda where the elite of the world gather in their ocean going yachts to summer….gorgeous coast..emerald grottos and underground rivers…the G8 meeting this summer in July was scheduled to be held on the Sardinian island, La Maddalena, just off the coast,where a huge nato base is located, but was moved to L”Aquila, site of the devasting earthquake…lucky for Silvio not to have the world’s press in his front yard.
    I spent quite a bit of time in Sardinia in the 70’s with a Sicilian cousin’s fiance, a young Sardian man in the Italian Guardia di Finanza, Italian State Police….got quite an inside tour…bumped into Senator Claiborne Pell’s daughter, Dalls vacationing there and she hung out with us while we were there….brings back memories…
    Your question about the Vatican Embassy in Niger illustrates why I thought Justice Sam Alito should not be on the Supreme Court because now it has a majority of Catholics, a church with it’s own dipolomatic relationships with other countries, unlike other churches….gives one pause for thought…m’est pas?


  2. Zathras says:

    Excuse me…Palestine?
    I’ll leave it to those readers whose passion for the Palestinians, or at least against the Israelis, regularly overflows in posts on this site to explain what a dumb analogy this is. The only point I’ll make here is that it isn’t being made by anyone except this Patrick Doherty fellow.
    In terms of engaging on the difficult questions that will need to be answered to begin building a new relationship between the United States and Cuba, it seems plain enough that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are well ahead of the host of this site and his occasional guests (for example, here: If one thought that the object of American policy ought to be negotiation through surrender, then no, but the constituency for that point of view has got to be pretty limited, even in Latin America.


  3. Mr.Murder says:

    OT, but not really so:
    “Premier Silvio Berlusconi is fighting back in a scandal feeding on his fondness for young women, with his lawyer acknowledging Saturday the media mogul has moved to block publication of hundreds of photos taken of guests at his sumptuous Sardinian villa.
    State television reported that among the photos were some taken last New Year’s Eve, with the guests including an 18-year-old Neapolitan woman at the heart of the political and personal scandal.
    The 72-year-old Berlusconi’s wife, Veronica Lario, announced a few weeks ago that she was seeking a divorce, in part because of what she lamented was her husband’s infatuation with young women.”
    Yet the British government has learned….
    How close exaclty is the Vatican Embassy of Niger to Italy?
    A broken watch, the traditional Persian wedding gift, was also missing from he office where the Niger forgery occurred?
    “One photo shows several women crowded close to Berlusconi as they sit on a bench on the villa’s sprawling grounds. One of the women is sitting on Berlusconi’s leg. In another photo, Berlusconi is shown strolling with two women, one holding his right hand and the other holding his left.”
    I can’t help but wonder if Tony Blair likes eating fine Italian?
    Certainly Aznar’s buddy the EU minister(Spanish) at the time probably does, along with Mike Ledeen. They wined and dined on think tank banquet tickets for AEI here and there!
    You know, the Italian Navy was who the real aluminum tubes shipments were for, entirely unrelated to procurement of uranium. With conventional usage, a known known! Who could have ever imagined?
    How would ordinance for the Italian Navy fall into CIA case reports well after the fact? Was Mr.Ledeen’s wife not on Sen.Santorum’s(R-Dog on Man) Senate staff as part of the minority report’s summary statements of the Intelligence Committee?
    Can’t we all do like Berlesconi, Blair, Aznar, Santorum, Bush, Cheney, Addington, or Botlon and take some time off to put food on our families? Or someone’s eighteen year old?


  4. Robert Morrow says:

    I agree. It is long overdue to normalize relations with Cuba in the same manner we have with Vietnam.


  5. Don Bacon says:

    Yeah, Cuba is a real terror on the world stage, with all their invasions, assassinations, killing, torturing, sanctions and displacement of millions of people. Oops — that’s the US, not Cuba.


  6. Patrick Cronin says:

    We need to engage Cuba, it’s high time. But at the same time, one wonders how willing the Cuban government is to change its relations, too…


  7. rich says:

    Patrick Doherty wrote:
    “Latin America has made Cuba its cause celebre, and the analogy is to Palestine.
    In other words, if the United States wants to do business with the region and to lead the region, it is time for the Obama administration to deliver change they can believe in and the threshold is set high: ending the embargo on Cuba.”
    America is far behind the political curve, domestically as well as internationally, both on Cuba and Israel. I suggest again: had the Washington foreign policy establishment listened to the countrymen they serve, we would not be playing catch-up now, or paying these exorbitant economic & political costs now. Jesse Ventura, Ricardo Gonzalez and Paul Soglin all went to Cuba 20 and 30 years ago b/c they had a better sense of American political values and realpolitikal dynamics than anyone presuming to run US foreign policy over that same period.
    We’re left paying those costs because DC lost the capacity to listen to reason and refuses the obligation to adhere to sound foundational political values or capitalize on those political dynamics.
    Fortunately, some have realized we have no time to lose and are showing, you know, actual leadership:
    “Even one veteran Washington peacemaker who had grown skeptical that Washington can overcome obstacles to get substantive progress on Middle East peace admitted to being impressed by the Obama team’s resolve. “What I’m beginning to see is that the Obama administration may be less concerned with actually getting to negotiations and an agreement and more interested in setting new rules and rearranging the furniture,” said Aaron David Miller of the Woodrow Wilson Institute.”
    This suggests Obama is in tune with Steve Clemons’ point that we need to get out of the ‘peace process business’ and start accomplishing pieces of already-identified solutions.
    More at


  8. David says:

    Thank you, Patrick Doherty, for saying in no uncertain terms what actually needs to be shouted in the Oval Office. We will continue our idiot Cuba policy to our own detriment, and unless we realize just how much Cuba matters, we will find ourselves with no political capital worth cashing in in our own hemisphere. The reality is that stark at this point, and oil on the upswing will help guarantee the rest of the Americas can go their own way if we remain pigheadedly retrograde.


  9. JohnH says:

    Whether or not the issue registers with Obama, one thing is certain. It will NOT register with the corrupt corporate media.
    Headlines from Honduras will almost certainly be all about Netanyahu’s side show and his charges that Venezuela and Bolivia are supplying Iran with uranium, which Iran already has plenty of. Of course, Netanyahu’s BS will not register at all with the attendees, who understand the Iranian issue, but only with the American media.
    If the US dithers too long, it may not just be the OAS that is defunct. Strike also the Monroe Doctrine, whereby the US put the world on notice that Latin America was its playground, and that it wouldn’t tolerate any outside interference. Brazil and China have already agreed to conduct commercial relations in their own currencies, not the dollar.


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