Almagro: Cuba should attend summit
BY ANDRES OPPENHEIMERAOPPENHEIMER@MIAMIHERALD.COM
09/27/2014 10:43 PM 09/27/2014 10:43 PM
Uruguay, Peru and Guatemala have nominated candidates to replace Jose
Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the 34-country Organization of
American States. In the first of a three-part occasional series leading
up to January's vote, columnist Andres Oppenheimer interviews the
candidates. Today, he asked Foreign Minister Luis Almagro of Uruguay
five questions about his plans for the OAS and attacks from critics.
Which specific changes would you make at the OAS if elected Secretary
The OAS must regain credibility and relevance, and become a political
convergence mechanism that complements and articulates other (regional)
integration processes. In that context, it's key that the strengthening
of democracy and its institutions goes hand-in-hand with an unrestricted
defense of human rights and inter-American (human rights) mechanisms,
and that their independence be respected by all....
At the same time, it would have to address issues of this century, such
as the lack of security among citizens and the sustainability of
development plans that are threatened by climate change and natural
Upon this premise and in line with the reforms led by Mexico and
approved by the OAS, I will promote an internal re-engineering process
so that, with the support of member states, a results-based budget be
established, with periodical accountability on the progress made in
areas that are key to that strategic vision.
Panamá has invited Cuba to the Summit of the Americas to be held in that
country in 2015. The United States opposes Cuba's participation, saying
that under Summit of the Americas and OAS rules, only democratic
countries can participate in these summits. Venezuela and its allies, on
the other hand, say that if Cuba is not invited, they will not attend.
Who is right?
I believe the situation assumes a dichotomy that doesn't exist. The
Latin American countries without exception formulated in the last Summit
held in Cartagena that Cuba should be part of the 2015 Summit. Panamá
has welcomed this desire and I believe that the invitation sent to Cuba
is good news for the inter-American family.
Considering that many of us regard the OAS Human Rights Commission and
the OAS Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression as
the OAS' most valuable agencies, what is your opinion of the efforts of
Ecuador, Venezuela and their allies to make changes in both of those
We were emphatic in the Extraordinary General Assembly in March 2013 in
valuing further strengthening the inter-American human rights system, as
well as a positive dialogue between member nations and the Human Rights
Commission, without double standards.
The autonomy and independence of the Human Rights Commission and the
Inter-American Human Rights Court are unalterable principles. As
government leaders we must defend the victims' perspective of human
rights violations and become leaders in the outrage over this issue.
This does not contradict national and popular sovereignty.
Your political opponents say that you, in your efforts to win the votes
of Venezuela and its allies, have looked the other way from the 43 dead
and hundreds of wounded during the student protests in Venezuela early
this year. What is your response?
I was part of the UNASUR [Union of South American Nations] delegation of
Foreign Ministers that visited Venezuela to find paths to dialogue and
peace. My action in that respect has been consistent. At the OAS, I
pushed a statement approved by the majority of member nations that
called for limiting the tension and polarization. I simultaneously
insisted on the need to respect and defend freedom of expression and the
right to protest peacefully.
When we moved to seek paths to dialogue and peace, we talked to all the
parties, taking into account the need to include all the players that,
moved by democratic intentions, seek to oppose a legitimately elected
government. I have been a valid interlocutor of all sectors and on the
issues of human rights and democracy, I consider my principles more
unflagging than ever.
Your political opponents also say that you, again in your efforts to win
the votes of Venezuela and its allies, abstained from supporting a
United Nations declaration condemning the annexation of Crimea, and that
you recently denounced Israel for the conflict with Gaza. They also say
that you had your photo taken wearing the Palestinian scarf while
failing to denounce Hamas for shooting missiles from schools and
hospitals. Your response?
I would say that it is not an accurate analysis, and that it misses the
context and the principles upon which Uruguay's foreign policy has been
based in recent years. First of all, there is a temporary inconsistency:
When the Crimea vote was taken, the government of Uruguay had not yet
announced (it did so three months later) the launching of my candidacy
to the OAS. Likewise, in its explanation of the vote, it ratified its
support to territorial integrity and inviolability of nations.
Regarding Israel and Palestine, Uruguay began by condemning, in the most
vigorous manner, the murder of the three Israeli youths. Later we
deplored the use of violence regardless of which party was using it.
And, consistent with our principles, we condemned, in the strongest
terms, the lack of proportionality in the Israeli response, especially
the death of children and civilians, something we will never stop
deploring if we have any respect at all of human rights.
My meeting with the Palestinian community in Uruguay must be seen under
the same logic as my meeting with the Jewish organizations in Uruguay.
And I don't see why they should be read differently from the time when I
wore the yarmulke and prayed at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Please
note that we have always supported Israel when we understand that they
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