A guaracha by the Cuban duo Los Compadres must be playing after the 8th Summit of the Americas in the ears of Raul Castro and the dictatorial elite's throng of opportunists andoppressors. The guaracha went: "Como cambian los tiempos, Venancio, qué te parece…" (How times change, Venancio, how about that...")
And they do sure change, although they need to change even more. At this summit the head of the US delegation did not meet with his Cuban counterpart (like Obama did with a smiling with Raúl Castro), but rather with Rosa María Payá. The acting secretary of state, John J. Sullivan, and the US ambassador to the OAS, Carlos Trujillo, did not talk with Castroist officials, but rather with Cuban dissidents.
However, the summit did not manage to call for a breaking of diplomatic relations with the Caracas regime, or to approve sanctions, or to write a forceful declaration condemning the chavista and Cuban dictatorships.
Castro II and his military junta knew that the atmosphere in Lima would be different. It was no coincidence that the dictator decided not to attend. He never intended to. When Maduro was rejected, the General came up with a strategy. Not even the first vice-president of the country would attend, and the "civil society" contingent was reinforced at the summit with underlings from the MININT and the Rapid Response Brigades.
The tyrant's absence was highlighted by the grotesque boycott carried out by "civilian" mobs that interrupted official activities and insulted, not Cubans who opposed the regime, but the Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, at whom they shouted "traitor", "sell-out", and "agent of the CIA". The pro-Castro José Miguel Insulza, OAS Secretary in 2015, was not insulted.
But that was the best thing they could have done. The whole world perceived this behavior as a tantrum thrown by people without ideas or plans for the future to defend. Those gangs were pure opportunists. None of them actually believe in Castroism. They only want to score points with the dictatorial elite, to rise on the political totem pole so as to garner some of the dictatorship's economic perks.
"I am Fidel"
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez only seeks to curry favour so that he might become president. He defended the Maduro regime, and repeated that the tyranny will not move "one millimeter". All very democratic. How could he talk about democratic governance and the struggle against corruption, the summit's theme, while representing the most corrupt regime in the region, and a tyranny dating back 60 years?
In Lima, Castroist forces did the only thing they know how to do: boycott, assault, insult, threaten and repeat inane slogans. That is the "battle of ideas" that they learned from their leader, also present when they shouted "I am Fidel". And it was true that it was Fidel who was guiding them. That is what he taught the masses.
Fidel went into politics with a pistol in one hand, firing shots, killing, and intimidating his rivals with bullets, as a member of the Revolutionary Insurrectional Union (UIR), one of the country's bloodiest political-criminal gangs. This is why when he wanted to join the Orthodox Party, he was rejected by Eduardo Chibás, who stated: "I do not want gangstersin the Party". He was only later accepted, after insistence by José Pardo LLada.
In addition to this, there were his fascist ideas, his admiration for Mussolini and Primo de Rivera, his reciting fragments of Hitler's Mein Kampf from memory, and the reading of some books by Marx and Lenin, especially The State and the Revolution, and his admiration for Antonio Guiteras, a nationalist leftist and terrorist. With that theoretical/practical/political amalgam, he assaulted the Moncada barracks, ascended the Sierra Maestra, and seized power. This explains his authoritarian and delinquent behavior as head of state.
Castro governed by slamming his fist down on the table, imposing his will on everyone. He did not accept the Communist Party standing above him and the armed forces. He inverted the Marxist-Leninist principle of "democratic centralism" (the minority obeys the will of the majority) in the PCC, as it was he who imposed his will on the majority. He taught not to accept criticism or respect other opinions, and that whoever is not "revolutionary" is a despicable "worm" (a word borrowed from Hitler), an enemy to be eliminated, humiliated, or beaten up. That's what his "shock troops" did in Lima.
At the 8th summit, however, although there was a visible decline in leftist populism, and a blossoming of the values of liberal democracy, it is also true that there was no consensus to act, as should have happened, in response to the tragic humanitarian situation that Venezuelans are suffering.
Several factors explain this inaction. First of all, the OAS, with Almagro heading it up, must put an end to the practice of making decisions at summits by consensus and not by vote. Its sounds very nice, but it does not work.
Of the eight summits held, six of them, from the second in Santiago de Chile in 1998, to the 8th in Panama, took place under populist leftist governments, which numbered 13 in 2011. The OAS, dominated by Caracas during the term of the socialist Insulza, looked favorably at consensus, although at that time the Left did not really need it, since they were in the majority.
Now, however, it is the other way around. There are few populist governments, but they retain veto power. Nothing can be approved against the dictatorships in Venezuela and Cuba because there is no consensus. Opposition is expressed by Bolivia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Venezuela, and probably Uruguay, as well as several Caribbean islands that receive cheap Venezuelan oil.
As a result of this consensus requirement, the summits of the Americas serve only to issue some statements, which are not binding, and that's it. It resembles the veto right in the UN Security Council, which, due to the veto of the five permanent members, is almost always useless.
It is also by consensus that Cuba attends the summits. Under chavista leadership at the OAS, and with Obama in the White House, it was decided that it did not matter that the Castros had never been elected at the polls. They were invited to return to the OAS. And to attend the summits.
But enough is enough. The configuration of forces in favor of democracy and respect for human rights has changed. There are only some five countries with leftist populist governments, and they lack political clout. Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, El Salvador and Cuba have 45.9 million inhabitants, but in Latin America there are 625 million. In other words, Castroist governments represent only 7% of Latin Americans and Caribbeans.
But nobody dares to touch Castroism. Why? For two reasons: 1) governments' and democratic forces' fear of the aggressive mobilizing and destabilizing power of leftist parties and organizations, and 2) few presidents and politicians want to provoke the Left. Rather, they want to pacify it, so as win votes from it in upcoming elections. It's that simple.
Between this year and the next there will be elections in thirteen Latin American countries, including the largest and most populous. In Mexico the populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador may win the presidency, but in Brazil, Argentina and Colombia it is unlikely that this fatal backlash will occur. Or in any other countries either.
With the decline of populism, it is unacceptable that the Castro dictatorship continues to participate, right alongside democratic governments, and is not subjected to sanctions, or that drastic measures are not taken against the chavista dictatorship.
In short, times have changed. The summit proved it to Castroism and el chavismo. But they must change even further, to extract both of these thorns from the side of the Americas.