SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (AP) — The Organization of American States cleared the way for Cuba’s possible return to the group by lifting a 47-year ban on the communist-run country, a move backed by Washington despite initial objections.
The vote by acclamation Wednesday to revoke a 1962 measure suspending the island from the body not only toppled a Cold War landmark but was the latest sign of the end of Cuba’s isolation in a region increasingly governed by leftist leaders.
Even traditional U.S. ally El Salvador this week restored ties with Cuba, meaning that every country in the hemisphere except for the United States has re-established relations. The U.S. embargo of Cuba also remains deeply unpopular in much of Latin America.
“At this meeting today we have washed away a stain that had affected us all,” said Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, whose leftist Sandinista party returned to power in 2006.
The decision was made by consensus, meaning the United States accepted it, though Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had lobbied personally for requiring Cuba to make democratic reforms and improve respect for human rights.
Still, Clinton applauded the final vote.
“Many member countries originally sought to lift the 1962 suspension and allow Cuba to return immediately, without conditions,” Clinton said in a statement issued by the State Department in Washington.
The OAS decision was angrily criticized in the U.S. by opponents of Cuban president Raul Castro and his older brother, former leader Fidel Castro.
U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the vote only appeased Cuba.
“Now we know where the priorities of the OAS lie,” the Cuba-born Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement. “Rather than upholding democratic principles and fundamental freedoms, OAS member states, led by the OAS Secretary General, could not move quickly enough to appease their tyrannical idols in Cuba.
“Today’s decision by the OAS is an affront to the Cuban people and to all who struggle for freedom, democracy, and fundamental human rights,” she added.
Associated Press writers Anita Snow in Havana and Ian James in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.
Photo: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega