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Cuba says no, gracias to OAS

Following the historic about-face by the Organization of American States (OAS) to allow Cuba to rejoin, Cuba’s government has officially rejected the offer. Cuba claims to “repudiate” the hemispheric club of nations and what Cuba considers the group’s supporting role in United States hostility toward the revolutionary island.

“Cuba welcomes with satisfaction this expression of sovereignty and civic-mindedness … ” displayed by the OAS consensus to strike down Cuba’s 47-year suspension, the government said in a statement posted in English Monday on the website of state-run newspaper Granma.

“However, Cuba once again confirms that it will not return to the OAS,” the statement said.

The OAS barred Cuba in 1962 because of Fidel Castro's alliance with the Soviet Union and China.

Re-entry of the island nation recently became a rally cry for many OAS governments, though some disagree under what conditions, if any at all. During a recent OAS powwow in Honduras, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pressed for the condition that Cuba first agree to make progress toward democracy and human rights before being allowed to rejoin the club. But when Clinton left the meeting a day early, the outlook was grim as to any likely consensus over lifting Cuba’s suspension.

And then, on the final day of the meeting, it happened: The OAS voted to let Cuba back in, if it should choose to accept.

Honduran President Mel Zelaya hailed the decision as the “end of the Cold War” and a “wise rectification” of the OAS’s stance.

However, judging by Cuba’s reply, the war isn’t over. Though the consensus dealt a blow to Washington’s imperialism, according to the statement in Granma, Cuba refuses to conceive of “the outlandish illusion of returning to an organization that does not allow reform and that has been condemned by history.”

For its part, the United States moved to deflect the perceived defeat. Its conditions would indeed be met because in order to enter, Cuba would have to abide by the “practices, purposes and principles” of the OAS, a U.S. government official told The Tico Times.

With conditions and not, it’s clear that Cuba's rocky road to re-engagement will be laden with Cold War words and reminders as some nations confront a government for the first time since shunning it almost a century ago. Costa Rica and El Salvador — the last holdouts in the Americas except the U.S. — have already pledged to re-establish diplomatic relations.

It will take more than an initial OAS consensus to get the ball rolling. But the fact that a metaphorical ball even exists means relations are thawing.