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Latin America concerned on Cuba’s isolation

In Brazil, foreign ministers of 19 countries discussed strategies to bring Cuba back to the Latin American family. Fidel Castro, however, still enjoys much support among the leaders of the region.

19 foreign ministers of Latin America discussed last weekend the best to break Cuba’s institutional isolation from the rest of the region. Since 1959 Castro’s communist revolution, Cuba is not part of the Organization of American States (OAS), as has also been excluded from other regional organisms; despite enjoys the support of a big portion of Latin Americans and has developed excellent diplomatic ties with most of the countries.

The foreign ministers of the 19 countries that make up the Group of Rio discussed the issue in Rio de Janeiro but did not reach to a common position on how to bring Cuba back to the “Latin American family”, as Brazilian FM, Celso Amorim, called it. Top diplomats of Latin America and the Caribbean also prepared the groundwork for the Group's presidential summit, which is scheduled for November in Rio de Janeiro.

According to Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, the ministers failed to reach a "consensus on how to begin a dialogue'' to achieve this objective. The consensus was not reached because some ministers "consider this to be a very sensitive topic that requires consultations with their respective governments.'' In fact, they are concerned on a sure hostile reaction from Washington, as the White House fuels a hard-line policy toward the Island.

"We cannot discuss Cuba in Cuba's absence,'' Amorim said. "What we did discuss was an eventual dialogue between the Group of Rio and Cuba.'' The initiative to establish this dialogue came from Brazil and has received the backing of Argentina and Peru, Amorim said.

Cuba is not a member of the Group, which meets on a regular basis to discuss the region's foreign policy stands, nor of the Organization of American States. However, Castro’s regime has good ties with most of the Latin American countries. At the top of the list of Cuba’s best friends in Latin America is Venezuela, which supplies the Island with cheap oil as has recently welcomed the services of thousands of Cuban doctors hired as part of Chavez’s ambitious social programmes.

Also Argentina, Mexico and Brazil traditionally held good ties with communist Cuba, which have also included recent free trade talks.

Formed in 1986 in Rio de Janeiro, the Group of Rio includes: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana (representing the Caribbean Community), Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Uruguay.

Hernan Etchaleco

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