The day the Monroe Doctrine died?
The region is now more united than ever in declaring its independence and sovereignty from US domination – the overdue presence of Cuba at the summit is symbolic of this broader victory.
The handshake between US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro, coming only days before the 17 April anniversary of the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, signals a new era in Latin American and Caribbean relations with the North.
Nowhere was this new situation more keenly felt than in the repeated condemnation Obama faced over his executive order naming Venezuela as a threat to US national security.
President Raúl Castro was one of many speakers who addressed it in the context of the history of US imperial interventionism and, despite his stated wish not to dwell on the past, Obama was forced to face down a long list of grievances from all over the region.
Not least of these was a letter from the Victims of Chorrillo, a town that was bombed during the US invasion of Panama in 1989, transmitted to him by none other than the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. The letter proved true the words of the late, great Eduardo Galeano: these are still ‘open veins that cannot be bandaged over’.
Raúl Castro was also not alone in recalling the April 2002 coup attempt against the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. There are those who fear that the Obama rapprochement with Cuba is a cynical tactic to divide the Cuban people from the Venezuelan cause in the preamble to a further coup attempt.
But if that is the case, then the US is once again sadly mistaken. In Venezuela, the tactics that were deployed against Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973 have thus far failed to break the civic–military alliance that supports the elected government.
In the region beyond, organizations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), as well as the non-aligned movement and the G77 group (plus China), have declared their strong support for Venezuela.
What is more, the popular outcry against the US has been truly inspiring. The ‘Repeal the Executive Order’ (#ObamaDerogaElDecretoYa) petition has gathered more than 13 million signatures, and the White House, just four weeks before the Summit, was forced to concede that Venezuela does not pose a threat to the security of the United States.
It tried to make light of the language by describing it as a mere formality used to impose sanctions.
As Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, commented: ‘It must be a bad joke, which reminds us of the darkest hours of our America, when we received invasions and dictatorships imposed by imperialism. Will they understand that Latin America has changed?’
I am sure they will have to. Obama has stuck his neck out, saying that ‘the days of interfering in other countries’ affairs are over,’ referring to US-Cuban relations.
He will now have to apply this policy to all the countries of the region.
Cuba’s reinsertion into the Organization of American States (OAS) and its central role in the formation of new regional forums such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and CELAC means that the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean will soon be engaging in dialogue with the United States as a unified bloc.
When that happens, the era of US hegemony will be well and truly history. As Cuba’s José Martí said 110 years ago: ‘Only after the union of Latin nations can we aspire to a fraternal union with the other America, that of the North.’
Stephen Wilkinson is the Chair of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba.
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