WASHINGTON — The Organization of American States appears virtually certain to invite the Cuban government of Fidel Castro back into the fold next month after a 27-year absence, despite the Bush Administration's efforts to isolate Castro's regime within the Pan-American community.
The probable return of Havana to the Cuban seat in the OAS finds the Bush Administration still opposed but with little means to resist in the face of a major shift in Latin American opinion about how to deal with Castro. The Castro government--but, technically, not the nation of Cuba--was suspended from the 32-nation organization in 1962.
Despite U.S. objections, based on Havana's intervention in other nations and its record of human rights violations, the necessary two-thirds vote to restore Castro's participation is virtually assured when the OAS holds its regular annual meeting in Washington beginning Nov. 13.
"The Latins feel that the best way to bring Cuba back to the community is with a policy of inclusion rather than exclusion," said Wayne S. Smith, a former chief of the U.S. interests section in Havana and now a specialist in Latin American affairs at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies.
President Bush had been expected to take the opportunity of the just-concluded summit meeting in Costa Rica to ask for the support of U.S. allies to keep Havana out of the OAS. But Washington strategists privately concede that it is probably too late to block Castro's re-entry.
Other observers say that the White House's recent resistance has been so weak--in contrast to the hard-line position of the Reagan Administration--that it has left the impression that it has essentially given up the battle.
The Castro government was suspended from all activity within the OAS in 1962 on the initiative of Venezuela, which produced evidence that Castro had armed guerrillas who were then trying to bring down the first durable, democratically elected government in Venezuela's history. At that time, all OAS members except Mexico broke diplomatic ties and halted trade with the hemisphere's first Communist regime.
A serious effort to reinstate Havana at the annual OAS meeting in November, 1974, fell two votes short of the necessary two-thirds, with most of the rest of the members, including the United States, abstaining rather than voting "no."
One by one after that, a number of Latin American nations began to ignore the OAS embargo and restore diplomatic and commercial ties with Havana. This process got a boost in 1982 when Castro sided with Argentina in its war with Britain over the Falkland Islands, while the United States was siding with Britain. Today, 20 governments in the hemisphere have consular or full diplomatic relations with Havana.
A new move to invite Havana back to the OAS was initiated during a meeting of seven Latin presidents at Ica, Peru, on Oct. 12. Nations represented at Ica were Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Last week, Cuban Foreign Minister Isidoro Malmierca told the ambassadors of the seven nations that his government is ready to accept the invitation.
Malmierca quoted Castro as saying that, "if under current circumstances, our return to the OAS would be convenient for Latin America, we would cast aside all negative antecedents and we will be ready to join."
That represented a radical departure for Castro, who had rejected all suggestions that his government return to the organization. He said that Havana would never return so as long as the OAS was what he once called a "house of ill repute" dominated by Washington.
A possible preview of the coming OAS decision occurred Oct. 18, when Cuba was elected to a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Cuba received 146 votes, the most of any of the candidates for the five open seats on the 15-nation council.
Jacqueline Tillman, director of the Washington office of the Cuban-American Foundation, the powerful anti-Castro voice of the Cuban emigre community, voiced exasperation at the prospect.
"I am dismayed," Tillman said in a telephone interview. "I don't know why one of the world's last remaining Stalinists belongs in the OAS. The OAS is supposed to stand for democratic principles, and the human rights record in Cuba is so bad that it should be of concern to all the members."
Backkground The Organization of American States was established in 1948. Based in Washington,D.C., it has 32 permanent observers. As outlined in its charter, the organization's purpose is to achieve "an order of peace and justice, promoting solidarity among the American states; (to strengthen) their collaboration and (defend) their sovereignty, their territorial integrity and their independence. . .as well as to estabish. . . new objectives and standards for the promoting of the economic, soical and cultural development of the peoples of the hemisphere, and to speed the process of economic integration."