Ever since the announcement was made on December 17, 2014 by the Presidents of Cuba and the United States: Raúl Castro and Barack Obama, about their decision to advance in the normalization of bilateral relations, the two countries have made progress. Yet, there are still obstacles on the road as is the case of the blockade on the island.
After various meetings and talks headed by the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s general director of the United States, Josefina Vidal, and the then assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson, the two countries reestablished diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, when they also opened their respective embassies in Havana and Washington D.C.
Last year, the two governments held several technical meetings on topics of common interest including the postal service, civil aviation, environmental protection, the fight against drug trafficking, law enforcement, migration, telecommunications, and rescue operations.
These meetings resulted in the signing of agreements on environmental protection, protected sea areas, the postal service and the restart of direct flights between the two nations. The latter took effect through a memorandum of understanding signed in Havana.
The agreement signed by U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, and Cuban Transportation Minister, Adel Yzquierdo will allow up to 20 U.S.-Havana flights to operate daily and another 10 to and from nine other Cuban airports.
The dialogue has even worked out for topics on which the two countries noticeably disagree, as is the case for human rights issues.
The talks on crucial sectors for the two sides were given a major boost in August with the establishment of a Bilateral Commission during the visit made by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry. The commission met on September 11 in Havana and on November 10 in Washington D.C.
When assessing the rapprochement process on the occasion of its first anniversary, Vidal said that the two countries have made progress in their relations, hence showing a difference with previous years.
The Cuban official highlighted the agreements signed and the possibilities for reaching others, as well as the highlevel meetings and visits.
Presidents Raúl Castro and Obama have met twice: during the 7th Summit of the Americas held in April in Panama, and five months later at the UN headquarters in New York.
A third meeting will be held this month in Havana, representing the first visit to Cuba by a U.S. president in nearly 90 years.
THE BLOCKADE AND OTHER OBSTACLES
Over the past few months, both Cuba and the United States have reiterated their will to continue advancing toward the normalization of relations based on mutual respect, mutual benefit and friendly links between neighbor countries.
However, Cuba considers it impossible to carry on with the normalization of relations as long as the blockade remains in place and a piece of the Cuban territory continues to be occupied by the U.S. naval base.
Illegal radio and television broadcasts and plans aimed at changing and destabilizing the regime also pose obstacles to bilateral relations.
In a February visit made to Washington D.C., Cuba’s Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca denounced that the U.S blockade imposed on Cuba for more than 50 years is fully in place and represents an obstacle for mutual links.
Malmierca recalled that since the United States made its announcement on December 17, 2014 for the normalization of bilateral relations to take place, it has fined financial institutions millions of dollars for having links with Cuba.
Obama has launched three packages of executive measures to ease the blockade but Congress is the one that can fully lift it, as it became law in 1996 when the Helms-Burton Act took effect.
Cuba recognizes Obama’s actions but reiterates that they do not change the essence of the unilateral sanctions and their objective of asphyxiating the Cuban economy.
Regarding this, Malmierca recalled that Obama can make decisions that would help improve the current scenario like lifting the ban on the use of the U.S. dollar in Cuban transactions, opening the U.S. market to Cuban products, and letting U.S. companies invest in the island.
During the Cuban minister’s visit to the United States, the U.S. Secretaries of Trade and Agriculture, Penny Pritzker and Tom Vilsack, respectively, recognized the impact of the blockade and agreed on the need to bring it to an end.
An ever increasing number of people both in the United States and Cuba call to take advantage of the current panorama to make the rapprochement process irreversible and boost links with good prospects in fields such as tourism, biotechnology, agriculture, pharmaceutics and the war on drugs.
According to the deputy national security adviser for strategic communication for the U.S. president, Benjamin Rhodes, the objective of Obama’s visit is precisely to continue with the rapprochement process.Share on FB Share on TT