Something unprecedented in more than 50 years occurred in 2015: the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, broken by Washington in 1961, between Cuba and the United Nations, and the start of a process towards the normalization of bilateral ties.
The decision by both governments, simultaneously announced on December 17, 2014 by Cuban president Raul Castro and his North American counterpart Barack Obama, moved the world and marked a milestone in history. They also informed of the release of the three remaining Cuban anti-terrorists who were being held in U.S. jails.
On this same date, Ramón Labañino, Gerardo Hernández and Antonio Guerrero returned to Cuba. René González and Fernando González, members of the group globally known as the Cuban 5 had previously returned to the island having fully served unjust sentences.
BLOCKADE REMAINS IN FORCE
Despite some limited progress made by Havana and Washington over recent months and a willingness to proceed, the principal obstacle remains: the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba for more than five decades at a cost to the Caribbean nation of 833,755,000,000 dollars and incalculable human harm.
Only Congress can lift the Blockade and there are presently around twenty proposals for it to be lifted, with a further thirty intent on undoing the progress made to date.
All the while, the Blockade still proves to be an impediment. During 2015, the Treasury Department fined 5 banks or companies in excess of 2,834,867,000, from other countries for doing business with Cuba.
For similar reasons, the U.S. Government has since 2009 imposed penalties amounting to 14,396,357,471 dollars on firms from a range of nations.
In spite of the persistence of this blockade, following the commencement of the rapprochement, a certain degree of progress, albeit inadequate, can be detected.
An avalanche of legislators, businessmen, experts of bilateral issues and representatives from Government bodies has arrived in Cuba since January 2015.
The official announcement by the U.S. on May 29 of the removal of Cuba from the list of nations that sponsor terrorism – on which Cuban authorities stated it should never have been included – represents another milestone.
Successive meetings were also held in both Washington D.C. and Havana during the first semester of this year, until on July 20 of this year diplomatic relations were formally reestablished and embassies opened.
T h r e e m e m b e r s of Obama’s cabinet have visited Cuba since. The first was Secretary of State, John Kerry, who presided over the official opening of the U.S. Embassy here on August 14. Second to visit was the Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker who came in October, followed by Thomas Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture in November.
Another noteworthy event was the issue of regulations by the Treasury and Commerce Departments on January 15 and again on September 18, which although took a step in the right direction are of very limited significance in the context of how much Obama could actually do to ease sanctions.
Other matters of vital importance for the Cuban government are their demands for the U.S. to return the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base and cease subversion attempts and Radio and TV Marti broadcasts.
Overall however, experts on the subject and officials from both countries take a positive view of results.
The relationship that commenced in 2015 has been consolidated, particularly economically and the most reactionary elements on Capitol Hill and the anti-Cuban sectors have less room to orchestrate the undoing of the progress made to date.Share on FB Share on TT