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Candidate to lead OAS says Cuba shouldn’t be excluded from regional summit

Eduardo Stein

Washington, (EFE).- Guatemala’s Eduardo Stein, one of the candidates seeking to become head of the Organization of American States, said here Thursday that it would be regrettable if the presence of Cuba at the 2015 Americas Summit prompted other countries to boycott the event.

Whether to invite Cuba “is no longer a question,” as the Panamanian government has already taken steps toward issuing an invitation, the former Guatemalan vice president said during the latest in a series of forums at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Center featuring candidates for the OAS post.

“It would be very regrettable if, in this edition of the summit, if the Cuban government decides to accept the invitation and participate, other governments decide not to be there,” Stein said in response to a question.

“That would shatter the principle of inclusion that all of us are seeking as well as the possibility of understanding each other,” he said.

Panama has publicly signaled that it wants to see Cuba attend the April gathering, but the formal invitations will not go out until late December.

While the United States government has yet to say whether it would boycott the summit if Cuba were there, Washington maintains that the Cuban government should be excluded because Havana is not committed to democratic principles.

Stein pointed to the Guatemalan government’s decision in the 1980s to enter talks with guerrillas as an example of the value of adversaries sitting down “at the same table.”

Those negotiations led in 1996 to an accord that put an end to 36 years of civil war in the Central American nation.

By cautiously reaching out to Cuba, Stein said, the Panamanian government has shown that it takes “very seriously” the idea of striving for full inclusion as the path toward achieving goals including protections for human rights, Stein said.

The Cuba question loomed large during the 2012 Americas Summit in Cartagena, Colombia, where Havana’s allies in the ALBA group – Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua – vowed to boycott any future summits that excluded the Communist-ruled island.

Colombia made an effort to have Cuba included in the 2012 gathering, but the attempt fell short.

Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 and while the group revoked that measure in 2009, Havana has made no moves to rejoin and says it has no plans to do so.