Cuba must meet rights norms to rejoin OAS: Canada

Wed Apr 15, 2009 3:04pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Cuba would have to meet minimum standards on human rights and democracy before Canada supported any reintegration of Havana into the Organization of American States, a Canadian spokesman said on Wednesday.

Several Latin American countries, including Brazil, have said Cuba should be allowed to rejoin the 35-member OAS. It was suspended in 1962 because the OAS judged Cuba's communist system to be incompatible with the group's principles.

"Cuba's return, or eventual return -- if they're willing -- ... will obviously depend on Cuba's will to address hemispheric norms of participation, including representative democracy and respect for human rights," Canadian spokesman Dimitri Soudas said.

Soudas is press secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and was addressing reporters before Harper's participation this weekend in the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

The reference to whether Cuba was willing to rejoin the OAS alluded to a remark by former President Fidel Castro on Tuesday that his country had no desire to join the OAS and did not want to "hear the vile name of that institution".

Despite its position on Cuba rejoining the OAS, Canada has active diplomatic, travel and business ties with the Caribbean country.

Canadian mining and energy company Sherritt International, which is active in Cuba, has seen its shares rise by 28 percent since Monday on moves by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to ease restrictions on family ties with Cuba and to allow U.S. telecommunications firms to provide service for Cubans.

Soudas welcomed the U.S. moves and encouraged Cuba to respond.

"It's important for Cuba to take stock of that openness that was demonstrated by the American administration, and obviously look at doing its fair share on making progress on their side as well," he told a news conference.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)