Latins rebuke Cuba and U.S. Summit in Chile: This club has Spain and Portugal, not Washington, as members.

November 13, 1996

WHEN 19 Latin American countries plus Spain and Portugal held their sixth annual summit in Chile, Sunday and Monday, just two of the heads of government and state present were not elected. One was King Juan Carlos of Spain. The other was Fidel Castro of Cuba.

The king's elected prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, met privately with Mr. Castro, promising to influence the European Union to subsidize Cuba's transition to democracy if Mr. Castro would undertake to make it. Nothing doing, the Cuban dictator replied.

Without mentioning that country's name, the 21-nation communique was pointedly critical, saying, "Freedom of expression, association and assembly, full access to information, free, periodic and transparent elections are essential elements of democracy." Cuba signed this criticism of itself.

That's because the summit was more critical, by name, of U.S. efforts to quarantine Communist Cuba. It said the Helms-Burton Act, by trying to impose the U.S. embargo on the rest of the world, "ignores the fundamental principle of respect for the sovereignty of states." Worldwide dislike of the Helms-Burton Act's presumptions does not signify approval of Cuba's dictatorship. The Clinton administration, if it is unable to remove this counter-productive law, had better get used to such repudiations.

The club of Latin countries including their former colonial masters, which speak their languages, is just one example of their getting out from the U.S. shadow. Another is the effort of several to count themselves among the Pacific Rim states. Still a third is the growth of inter-American trade and trading areas.

Perhaps these governments know something the U.S. does not. They decided to meet in Venezuela next year and Portugal after that. But in 1999, they mean to meet in Cuba, as if they are confident it will be a democracy then. Which, by the way, is the goal of the Helms-Burton Act.

Pub Date: 11/13/96

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