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The CELAC, the Cuban regime and the defense of democracy
January 20, 2014
By Gabriel C. Salvia y Manuel Cuesta Morúa

Since late January 2013, Cuba became the head of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a body created by promotion of Hugo Chavez as an alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS), the latter with United States and Canada as member states.

It may sound simplistic to say that, but ultimately, the CELAC is an underdeveloped version of the OAS. How could you take seriously an organization that established a democratic clause and ends up being managed by a dictatorship? Something similar would be unthinkable within the European Union (EU) and in fact it was mainly the countries of the old continent which made the most categorical recommendations to Cuba during its Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council held on May 1, 2013 in Geneva.

For example, Germany recommended Cuba to "abstain from all forms of harassment, intimidation and arbitrary detention of human rights activists"; the Netherlands told it to "stop repression, investigate acts of repudiation and protect all persons who are victims of intimidation or violence"; France asked for "guaranteeing freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and the free activity of the human rights defenders, independent journalists and political opponents" and Spain claimed to "respect for freedom of expression, association and assembly and legally recognize associations of human rights through an inclusive system of official record".

At that time, with the exception of Chile, no Latin American country in Geneva expressed a recommendation to Cuba in line with those made by the EU and other developed democracies, such as Switzerland, Australia and Canada.

It is therefore not surprising that, at the time, in Caracas (2011) no Latin American government questioned the incorporation of Cuba in the CELAC, nor observed in Santiago de Chile (2013) the incredible contradiction that a country governed by a single party regime being charge of the pro tempore Presidency of the agency, would be the one in charge of the intervention in case of interruption of the constitutional order in a member state.

In the Democratic Clause of CELAC, signed on December 3, 2011 in Caracas, it reaffirmed respect for the rule of law, the defense of democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms and the legitimately constituted authorities as an expression of sovereign will of the people. Besides all the questions on human rights that are formulated to Cuba, if one thing is clear, it is that a one-party regime cannot give birth to legitimate authorities in a democratic perspective. Therefore, there is a moral and institutional responsibility of the member states of CELAC who legitimize the military regime of the Castro brothers and deny the Cuban people's democratic aspirations.

Also, the equal treatment received by the Cuban dictatorship detract Latin American leaders emerged from free and competitive elections. In all countries of the CELAC - except from Cuba - to become head of state it is necessary to win at least a general election against a candidate or candidates of another party. In some cases presidential aspirations have to impose first in a primary, then reach a certain percentage of votes in the general election and eventually win in a runoff, as happened recently with Michelle Bachelet in Chile.

However, the Cuban regime claims to be democratic, but there is no doubt that the way in which Raul Castro became Head of State, and previously did his brother Fidel, lacked electoral competition that characterizes a genuine democracy. Regardless of the natural diversity of democratic models all have in common the respect for fundamental freedoms of its citizens, in particular those laid down in Articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that the Cuban regime explicitly violates.

About all this we will seek to reflect, in Havana on January 28 during the second Democratic Forum on International Relations and Human Rights organized by the Center for the Opening and the Development of Latin America (CADAL) based in Buenos Aires, with local co-sponsorship of the Arco Progresista, Nuevo Pais and Comité Ciudadano por la Integración Racial under the title "The CELAC's special declaration of defense of democracy and its incompatibility with the one-party system in Cuba."

This meeting will take place in the context of the CELAC Summit during those days in Havana where the Heads of State and Government of Latin American countries will be hosted by the dictatorship. Both the personal safety of participants in the event, such as guaranteeing the universal human right of freedom of assembly and expression during the Forum organized by CADAL and convened by its Cuban counterparts, are also the responsibility of all member states of the CELAC, including Argentina with its declaimed international leadership in defending human rights.

Gabriel C. Salvia holds CADAL and Manuel Cuesta Morúa is Spokesman of the Arco Progresista of Cuba.