Last week, we published an article that centered around Obama’s diplomatic overture towards his Latin American counterparts, namely Cuba—a country that has been at odds with the United States since 1959. Written by Dr. Ardain Isma, the article stressed the need for a long overdue diplomatic rapprochement between Washington and Havana, something that is supported by 64% of Americans—according to the latest opinion polls.
At the beginning of the second half of the article, a quick reference on the Haitian government’s role in expelling Cuba from the Organization of American States (OAS) was made. Erratically, there was a mix-up in name. The article referred to Leslie Manigat as “young diplomat” executing Papa Doc’s quid pro quo with Washington. With all intellectual probity, Manigat did not head the Haitian delegation in Punta Del Este. René Charlmers, then Papa Doc foreign minister, did. A Papa Doc fervent disciple, Charlmers—after a series of meetings with the American delegation—reportedly entered a sweet deal with Dean Rusk, US top diplomat under the Kennedy Administration, casting his vote in favor of expulsion in exchange for allowing Haiti to be part of Alliance for Progress, a covert name used to fight off growing Marxist influence in the region—specially in the aftermath of the Cuban revolution.
The quick reference to Manigat—wrongfully so—has triggered an avalanche of responses, bypassing the central theme of the article, which is the reintegration of Cuba as an active member of the OAS. In addition to that, the quintessential point of the argument was somehow overlooked. “Papa doc was seeking tacit endorsement for his brutal crackdown on the growing student movement and trade unions’ strong opposition to his fascist regime. Something he wholeheartedly got from the United States, which helped craft [his] 29 years of a diabolical dynasty on the back of the ever-suffering Haitian people,” Ardain wrote. This statement is clear and unequivocal, for the Duvalier regime could not have survived this long if it were not for the proactive support it received from successive US administrations in the name of fighting communism.
Cuba: expelled with Papa Doc help
From the outset, Cuba was one of the twenty-one original members of the OAS created in Bogotá, Colombia, on May 5th 1948, and U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall became its first General Secretary sworn to uphold the organization’s main charter, which is “to achieve an order of peace and justice, to promote [our] solidarity, to strengthen [our] collaboration, and to defend [our] sovereignty, [our] territorial integrity, and [our] independence.”Playing the role of guarantor of peace and security, from the get go, the OAS was perceived as political tool of the United States viable to fend off not only possible Soviet influence in the region, but also to put a heavy weight behind the policy of preemption adopted in Washington shortly after the end of the second world war designed to slowly phase out the highly controversial gunboat diplomacy when it came to apply regime change.
Naively, many of the member states took to heart the notion of defense of “sovereignty” and “territorial integrity.” They thought of the AOS charter as a shield against the predatory character of an imperial power such as the United States. But 11 years later, the entrusted faith was put to a crucial test following the Cuban revolution of 1959. Unacceptable to the United States—a diplomatic honeymoon between Havana and Moscow right at its doorstep—it began to exercise pressure on the member states, advocating openly a collective punishment against Cuba through an economic and political isolation of the island nation. Understandably, at a meeting of foreign ministers in August 1960, most of them declined to comment on the status of Cuba. Countries like Mexico and Argentina were adamant to remain impartial and stressed that the issue was a “private quarrel between Cuba and the United States.”
But statements like these, however, did very little to hinder the US drive to isolate Cuba. Through its ambassador to the OAS, DeLesseps Morrison, the pressure grew with mounting intensity until it bore fruits in the spring of 1961 when Venezuela and Colombia broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba, triggering a new meeting between the member states. By a vote of 14 to 2, with five countries abstaining, the OAS scheduled a council meeting for January 1962 in Punta Del Este, Uruguay.
Fearing a backlash from his own largely pro-Cuban population, in the days leading up to that meeting, Frondizi, Argentine president, publicly stressed out his reservations to Washington’s aims. He made it clear that the U.S. was “obsessed with Cuba at the expense of the needs of the hemisphere” and that any action against Cuba “would only strengthen Fidel Castro.”
In the build up to that meeting, The United States stepped up the diplomatic pressure, pressing the Central American countries to take a strong stand against Cuba and instructed them to walk out if sanctions were not introduced.
Six countries opposed to sanctions: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador. Meanwhile, Uruguay and Haiti remained undecided. If Uruguay, as the host country felt compelled to be neutral, Haiti’s uncertainty was nothing but a ploy by Papa Doc, a political masquerade designed to build momentum in his quest for acceptance from Washington, especially after his infamous speech notoriously known as Le Discours de Jacmel, where he suggested that he might switch allegiance if Washington continued to reject his autocratic rule.
Papa doc won big. After a series of private political maneuverings with US Secretary of States, Dean Rusk, The United States agreed to resume aid to the Haitian government and Papa Doc voted for sanctions, also ensuring the passing of a resolution that strengthened the hand of The United States by giving it a de facto carte blanche to overtly intervene where it feels its strategic interests is in danger.
The resolution was confirmed by 14 of the 21 countries. Cuba of course voted against it and six others (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico) absented. The crucial part of the resolution reads as follows:
- That adherence by any member of the Organization of American States to Marxism-Leninism is incompatible with the inter-American system and the alignment of such a government with the communist bloc breaks the unity and solidarity of the hemisphere.
- That the present Government of Cuba, which has officially identified itself as a Marxist-Leninist government, is incompatible with the principles and objectives of the inter-American system.
- That this incompatibility excludes the present Government of Cuba from participation in the inter-American system.
In essence, Cuba as country technically continues to be a member. However, the actual government—Marxist and Leninist—is prohibited from participating in any gatherings for its ideology is at odds “with the principles and objectives of the inter-American system.” It was hard to imagine Francois Duvalier, the God Father of Creole fascism, heading a government with no popular legitimacy, would be allowed to attend OAS meetings while the Cuban government, overwhelmingly supported by its people, was barred. (End of Part I)
Note: Part II will focus on Leslie Manigat and his political trajectory.