U.S. denies visa to Cuban leader

The U.S. government announced Sept. 2 that Ricardo Alarcon, president of the Cuban National Assembly, would not be granted a visa to attend the second conference of parliamentary presidents held by the Inter-Parliamentary Union Sept. 7-9 at UN headquarters in New York. Alarcon had applied for the visa in June. The president of the Iranian Parliament was also denied a visa.

To justify these actions, the U.S. government claimed that the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is independent of the UN, that the latter merely provides space for the conferences. Washington had also denied Alarcon a visa on the occasion of the first meeting of the international group in 2000.

The IPU condemned the U.S. government for denying visas. It noted that the purpose of the conference was to promote “dialogue beyond our differences, without which true democracy or international cooperation can not exist.” In anticipation of U.S. intransigence, the UN General Assembly had expressly called for the host country “to extend the usual courtesies to the parliamentary delegations.”

Ironically, the U.S. government appears to have adopted its gatekeeper role despite having been expelled from the group for failing to attend meetings and pay dues.

Orlando Requeijo, Cuba’s permanent representative to the UN, read Alarcon’s message to the Inter-Parliamentary Conference Sept. 8. Expressing Cuba’s solidarity with the American people, Alarcon called for an outpouring of international assistance for the rescue and reconstruction campaigns following Hurricane Katrina.

In his message, Alarcon focused particularly on the UN World Summit, already programmed, as he sees it, to take on administrative reform issues while shortchanging what was to have been its main task, a review of progress towards the UN Millennium Development Goals for social justice. He was expected to receive a visa to attend the summit.

Alarcon alleged that powerful forces were intent upon converting the UN consensus on the Millennium Goals into a dead letter. The reference was of course to the United States, represented now at the UN by President Bush’s appointee, John Bolton.

Alarcon’s message continues: “The goals so solemnly proclaimed here five years ago are increasingly farther away. ... Hunger, malnutrition, poverty, illiteracy and ill health must be eradicated. Let us put a stop to the destruction of the environment, waste of natural resources, selfishness and greed that bring about soil, sea and atmosphere poisoning.”

Alarcon concluded with calls for extradition of the terrorist Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela and freedom for the Cuban Five.