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Author`s name Michael Simpson

South America Upsets USA: Brazil and Argentina Support Cuba at UN

In a joint decision the governments of the main Mercosur countries decided to abstain at the next voting on human rights violations under Castro's regime
Argentina's President Eduardo Duhalde confirmed Tuesday that Buenos Aires would back Brazil's position at UN Human Rights Committee on Cuba. The voting is to take place on Wednesday at UN headquarters in Washington and both countries will abstain to condemn Castro's regime, frustrating Washington's diplomatic efforts on the contrary.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva had anticipated that he would not support US initiative toward the island. In fact, he just followed Brasilia's usual vote on the question and Washington counted with it. However, Argentina changed its last decade tradition of voting against Cuba, by joining Brazil in a common policy. This is the main reason why Washington is worried and Havana is happy.

"The United States of America is disappointed by Argentina's turn, after more than a decade of supporting human rights in Cuba", reads an official statement issued by the US Embassy to Buenos Aires. The document stresses the current scenario in which the voting will take place, especially after the execution of three hijackers trying to escape to Florida, and the imprisonment of dozens of dissidents.

In fact, Fidel Castro did little to help South American position to support Cuba, by ordering the unjustified execution of people last week. The three hijackers were detained after the ferry they were boarding to escape to US coasts ran out of gas and had to be driven back to Cuba. Even the Portuguese Literature Nobel Prize, Jose Saramago, a traditional supporter of Castro's revolution, had to admit that shootings were unnecessary.

Duhalde, in turn, grounded his decision on the critical economic situation Cuba has gone through after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. "Argentina cannot condemn Cuba, a blocked little country", said Duhalde. "We think it is not the moment to condemn Cuba, as were are going through a unilateral war that violates basic human rights", he added.

Duhalde also revealed that had several contacts with his Brazilian counterpart on this question and said he was sure that he was interpreting the feelings of the Argentine people. No question he was right on this point, as most of the Argentineans have a positive view on Castro's government. What he forgot to mention is that his decision is also linked to the ongoing election campaign, in which his candidate, Nestor Kirchner, urgently needs more votes to win.

Anyway, Argentina's decision put things into the right place. Buenos Aires has to develop a common foreign policy with Brazil and left behind the years of automatic alignment to Washington. After the dubious performance of its Foreign Ministry on the US invasion of Iraq, this South American country has to decide whether to stay with Brazil and the rest of Latin America or to come back to the servile policies of the nineties.

Photo: Brazil's Lula (left) and Argentina's Duhalde, an alliance that upsets Washington