November 7, 1998
Cuba let into LatAm integration body ALADI

                  MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Communist Cuba's isolation
                  was reduced a little on Friday when it gained membership of the low-profile
                  Latin American Integration Association (ALADI).

                  ALADI nations' foreign ministers meeting for two days in the Uruguayan
                  capital issued a statement saying they had voted unanimously to let Cuba into
                  the Latin American tariff preference system, founded in Montevideo in 1980.

                  "This is a triumph not just for Cuba but for all Latin American countries who
                  are members of ALADI. It strengthens the organisation's role as promoter of
                  integration," said Cuba's ambassador to Uruguay, Manuel Aguilera.

                  "For us Cubans in particular it has another meaning. It means we have taken
                  another step towards breaking the North American blockade," the Cuban
                  envoy said.

                  Aguilera said Cuba hoped that membership of ALADI, which provides a
                  framework facilitating trade deals between member nations, would help it
                  balance its trade deficit with them.

                  Cuba's two-way trade with ALADI countries grew 41 percent in total
                  between 1989 and 1996.

                  But Aguilera rejected talk that ALADI membership was simply a step
                  towards getting Cuban participation in negotiations on establishing a Free
                  Trade Area of the Americas. Cuba "does not aspire to the FTAA," said the

                  There is increasing pressure in Latin America for Cuba to be allowed back
                  soon into the higher profile Organisation of American States, from which it
                  was suspended in the early 1960s at Washington's behest.

                  It is the only country in the Americas to be excluded from the FTAA talks,
                  again due to pressure from the United States.

                  Cuba has been an observer in ALADI since 1986 and requested full
                  membership a year ago.

                  ALADI, whose 11 other members are Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile,
                  Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela, has
                  lost influence in the 1990s with the growth of sub-regional markets like
                  Mercosur and the Andean Community.

                  Mercosur groups Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, with Bolivia and
                  Chile as associates. The Andean Community groups Bolivia, Colombia,
                  Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.

                  Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.