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OAS hails US-Cuba embrace

Published:Friday | December 26, 2014 | 12:00 AMGary Spaulding

Less than a month after Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) JosÈ Miguel Insulza told The Gleaner that the lifting of long-running United States-imposed economic sanctions against Cuba were overdue, the international organisation is hailing the move by the Barack Obama administration to do just that.

Ambassador Stephen Vasciannie, Jamaica's permanent representative to the OAS, has welcomed a declaration passed by the Permanent Council of that body on the normalisation of bilateral relations between the US and Cuba.

The declaration came after Insulza told The Gleaner he was banking on discussions surrounding an imprisoned American in Havana, Cuba, to change the course of the five-decade-long stand-off.

Insulza's pronouncement rang prophetic as Obama announced that the release of two prisoners was one of the conditions on which the embargo was lifted.

SENSELESS SANCTIONS

The OAS secretary general had criticised the US government of being very obstinate over the past 50 years, despite clear indications that the sanctions made no sense.

"The attempt to ostracise Cuba failed almost from the beginning," Insulza told senior journalists at The Gleaner's offices on a visit to Jamaica in November.

"And the reason for doing that was not really important Ö because nobody believed that Cuba was a threat to the region," added Insulza.

During an extraordinary meeting on Monday, the OAS Permanent Council adopted the declaration by acclamation among the more than 30 states present.

"The declaration refers to the 'historic announcement' made by Presidents Obama and Castro on December 17, and expresses the OAS's 'deep satisfaction' for the initiative undertaken by the two leaders," said Vasciannie.

It also reiterated "the commitment of the Americas to dialogue among sovereign states", and emphasised OAS support for "the implementation of measures conducive to the complete normalisation of bilateral relations" between Cuba and the US.

In supporting the declaration, Vasciannie quoted Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller's recent remarks that the "bold and visionary leadership" on the part of Presidents Obama and Castro was "particularly heartening, coming so soon after the CARICOM-Cuba Summit held in Havana on 8th December".

Vasciannie echoed the sentiments of counsellor for public affairs in the US Embassy, Joshua Polacheck, that normalisation of relations would ensure that no state in this hemisphere would be left behind.

He reiterated that Jamaica joined CARICOM, the OAS, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, and other institutions in underlining the importance of dialogue and mutual respect between both countries.

"Jamaica looks forward to the lifting of the American embargo against Cuba," said Vasciannie, noting that Jamaica and the OAS reserved the right to address issues concerning the embargo "on appropriate occasions in the future".