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OAS Offers Path for Cuba to Rejoin, after 47 Years


The Organization of American States (OAS) has agreed to reverse a 1962 decision suspending Cuba's Communist government from the regional group. Officials say the decision may have little impact for Cuba, which has said it will not return to the group.

Delegates debated over two days before reaching an agreement that invites Cuba to return to the group after meeting a series of conditions.

Officials say differences over whether to include conditions and in what form was the main point of contention in the negotiations. Cuban allies like Nicaragua and Venezuela opposed placing any conditions, and the United States wanted to ensure Cuba complied with democratic principles before returning to the OAS.

The Honduran Foreign Minister Patricia Rodas Baca read the resolution to delegates in San Pedro Sula.

She said Cuba can rejoin after initiating a dialogue with the group and conforming to its practices and principles.

The document says those principles include democracy, self-determination and human rights.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who took part in negotiations Tuesday, said she was pleased with the compromise measure. The top State Department diplomat for Latin America, Tom Shannon, told OAS delegates that Washington continues to pursue greater contact with Cuba.

"We will seek new ways to engage Cuba to benefit the people of both nations and the hemisphere. And we will continue to advocate for democratic governance in Cuba and throughout the Americas," he said.

For some Latin American leaders Cuba's suspension from the OAS revived bitter memories from the Cold War and civil conflicts throughout the hemisphere. Honduran President Manuel Zelaya said the vote helped to turn a new page.

Mr. Zelaya said the Cold War had ended here in San Pedro Sula, and he thanked all the delegates for their cooperation.

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said Cuba and other Latin American nations have suffered a long history of injuries at the hands of so-called imperialism. He told delegates that the United States could do even more to reconcile the past.

Maduro said it should not be too much to ask for an end to the U.S. embargo on Cuba. He said Venezuela welcomed the OAS decision but it was not enough.

Cuba's government has repeatedly said it has no intentions of rejoining the OAS, regardless of the actions taken by OAS delegates. In an essay published Wednesday, former president Fidel Castro said the group was an accomplice to crimes committed against his country.

In Washington, a group of U.S. congressmen condemned the OAS decision and proposed a bill that would withhold U.S. funding for the group, which is based in the U.S. capital. In a statement, Florida Representative Connie Mack said hundreds of Cubans live as political prisoners and many suffer constant fear and repression.

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