The Rio Group is a Latin American mechanism of political articulation and diplomatic negotiation which was created in 1986 and currently consists of 23 member countries.
The Rio Group decided to incorporate the Cuban dictatorship as a full-fledged member during the presidential summit of Mercosur, which took place on December 17th in Costa Sauipe, in the Brazilian Province of Bahía.
This happened after the recent oppression of the pacific resistance to the Cuban Government that just wanted to celebrate the International Day of Human Rights on December 10th. José Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch's Americas division, stated in this context that "this recent attack is another proof of the fact that even after the resignation of Fidel Castro's power; the Cuban Government is still preventing the application of the very basic human rights".
The integration of the Cuban dictatorship in the Rio Group constitutes one part of the permanent offensive diplomacy of this country with the purpose to achieve a better international legitimization. That way, the regime can keep its power through an oppressive legal system which severely limits fundamental human rights. This is accompanied by the pressure imposed to reach the reintegration of Cuba in the OAS, which had excluded Cuba because of being a dictatorship. A reincorporation of Cuba as a member state is prevented by the fact that the legal system of the island violates parts of the Inter- American Democratic Charter.
Concerning the above mentioned the report of Human Rights Watch is quite conclusive: "The Cuban Government is still limiting nearly all forms of political opposition, in addition to that, freedom of speech, association, assembly, circulation and press are restricted severely. Cuban law and institutions which are controlled by the state are building the fundament permitting these violations of the basic civil rights. Thus, legal actions, detentions, penalizations and inspections are quite common to oppress the opposition. Besides from the dissidents detained during the past days, there are more than 200 persons in prison for political reasons."
Nevertheless, the Cuban dictatorship achieved a new triumph for its foreign policies in the region which will be communicated broadly in an Orwellian way by the government media monopoly on the island, distributing the message of the international adhesion to its suffering population seeking the demoralization of a strong internal opposition.
Like always in these international areas, the representatives of the region, as for example, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, demanded in public the end of the embargo, which in an ironical way has been called "blockade", but the representatives did not in any way ask the illegitimate Cuban Government for a democratic opening and the liberation of the political prisoners.
And even if the indifference of the Latin-American governments of different political tendencies towards the Cuban people is not astonishing at all, it is an enormous regress that the final declaration of the summit of the Latin American and Caribbean countries, which took place at the same time as the summit of the Rio Group, mentions the "right of every state to build up its own political system". The latter is opponent to the declaration of Viña del Mar, from the Ibero-American Summit in 1996, which emphasized "the basic principle that no citizen must be affected in his/her basic civil rights, should be assured deeply in the democratic culture of our nations in the name of a dogmatic vision about society, state or economics".
Unfortunately, at the moment it is only the regional complicity which seems to be assured in the remaning dictatorship governing Cuba.
Gabriel C. Salvia is Chairman of the Centre for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL).