Kerry takes aim at Cuba over human rights

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Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryCutting corners in a federal campaign is criminal Navy investigation concludes Iran broke international law by detaining sailors Top Democrat wants Obama to block Boeing's deal with Iran MORE implicitly singled out Cuba for its human rights record in a joint statement with his Argentine counterpart Wednesday.

Kerry and Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra touted the Organization of American States (OAS), the regional body of all independent states in the Americas of which only Cuba is not an active member.

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"The United States and Argentina are committed to working together towards strengthening the OAS, welcoming calls to focus the Organization on its core mandate of promoting and protecting human rights and democracy in all 35 OAS member states," the statement read in part.

Membership in the OAS is linked to participation in the Inter-American Human Rights System, which allows individuals to file claims against member states outside their own courts.

President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro held a joint press conference Tuesday in Havana where Castro defended his country’s compliance with international human rights standards.

At the press conference, Obama declared that "freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and freedom of religion are not just American values but are universal values," while Castro, visibly ill-at-ease, retorted, "How many countries comply with all 61 human rights? Do you know? I do. None. None."

Cuba was suspended from the OAS in 1962 in a push by the United States and its allies to declare Marxism-Leninism "incompatible with the inter-American system." Argentina, along with Mexico, Brazil and others, opposed the move.

The suspension was lifted in 2009, but active Cuban participation was left to "dialogue initiated at the request of the Government of Cuba." 

Since then, Cuba has not expressed interest in re-taking its chair at the organization.

Active membership in the OAS has benefits beyond a vote in its assembly: It is a prerequisite of borrowing membership in the Inter-American Development Bank, the region's largest source of development financing.