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Summit of the Americas standoff: Cuba wants in

President Obama could take the high road and allow Cuban President Raul Castro to observe the Summit of the America's in Cartagena, writes guest blogger Anya Landau French.

By Anya Landau FrenchGuest blogger / February 24, 2012



• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, thehavananote.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

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It’s never easy to sit at the same table as someone with whom you have deep disagreements, especially when you believe that that someone shouldn’t even be at the table.

But, President Obama could find himself in that position at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia this April. 

President Obama and thirty-three other heads of state from around the region, all members of the Organization of American States (OAS), are expected to attend the summit.  But several countries have threatened to boycott the summit if Cuba is not invited.  The showdown over the possible attendance of Cuba’s Raul Castro – or the possible boycott by Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and several Caribbean nations if he is not invited – will be a test of the US’s ability to lead and build consensus within the region.  But it doesn't have to be a crisis of conscience.

In Pictures: Cuba economy

Three years ago, the Obama administration faced a similar situation at an OAS meeting in Honduras.  The hemisphere stood united (minus the United States) to revoke Cuba’s 1962 suspension from the OAS, ready to dispatch with bygone, Cold War era divisions.  But while the United States chose not to oppose revocation of Cuba’s suspension, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton successfully argued that Cuba must not be automatically readmitted with full rights of participation and voting:

"The member nations of the OAS showed flexibility and openness today, and as a result we reached a consensus that focuses on the future instead of the past: Cuba can come back into the OAS in the future if the OAS decides that its participation meets the purposes and principles of the organization, including democracy and human rights," Clinton said.
 The administration’s willingness to compromise on Cuba may have hurt it among staunch anti-Castroites at home. But it mended fences with a skeptical and polarized region that wanted unity more than anything else.

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