Given that no other president has done so since Calvin Coolidge back in 1928, the visit to Given that no other president has done so since Calvin Coolidge back in 1928, the visit to Cuba by U.S. president Barack Obama is, in addition to marking an important milestone in history, a sign of progress in the ties between the two countries. president Barack Obama is, in addition to marking an important milestone in history, a sign of progress in the ties between the two countries.
This and other events demonstrate that over the past few months positive steps have been taken towards the normalization of relations between Havana and Washington, even though there are still significant pitfalls on the road to achieving this objective.
Notable amongst the positive developments over recent weeks are the announcement of the reaching of an agreement to reestablish direct commercial flights between the countries, and the decision to cooperate in the area of cyber-security.
Having taken these and other similar steps, both sides recognize that the talks are being conducted in a professional and respectful environment.
Given this context, the measures by the Departments of Treasury and Trade that came into effect on January 27, were interpreted as positive by experts, even though they once again fell far short of what had been hoped for.
Another recent aspect of this bilateral dynamic was the announcement on February 24 of Obama’s decision to extend the State of Emergency declared by President William Clinton relating to Cuba in 1996, following the island’s shooting down of two light aircraft that had systematically violated its airspace.
In what has since become an annual ritual, Proclamation 9398 allows Clinton’s measures to continue prohibiting the entry of U.S. registered ships and aircraft to airspace and seas under Cuban jurisdiction, without special authorization by the Coastguard Service who can inspect and even impound vessels suspected of breaching the blockade.
Nevertheless, this time around, the tone of the language was somewhat softer than that which was previously used to justify the measure and it recognized at the same time the positive new atmosphere that now prevails between the two nations, in spite of the differences that still exist between them.
On the other hand, the global persecution of financial transactions with Cuba goes against Obama’s determination to do a political u-turn on the Cuba policy and to have Congress lift the unilateral sanctions that are the principal obstruction to normal relations.
A recent example of such a contradiction is the fine of 304,706 dollars imposed by the North American Government on the oil field services provider: the U.S. Haliburton company, for transactions involving the Cuban oil company, Cuba Petróleo (Cupet).
Since the announcement on December 17, 2014 of the policy change on Cuba, Washington has imposed similar fines totaling almost 3 billion dollars on five U.S. and three non U.S. companies.
Meanwhile, a plan recently presented by Obama for the closure of the prison that the U.S. operates within the Guantamo Naval Base, has put another outstanding issue between the two parties back on the table; Cuba’s claim for the return of the territory illegally occupied by the Base, against the will of the island’s people and government.
In the interests of attaining normalization, Cuba is, in addition to calling for the lifting of the blockade and the return of land, also calling for the cessation of illegal transmissions and the abandonment of – ongoing but using new methods - subversive programs that attempt to interrupt Cuba’s social and political order.
Either way, Obama’s stay in Cuba will be an opportunity for first hand experience of the Cuban reality and to become convinced that he should use the broad executive powers at his disposal to limit the scope of unilateral sanctions imposed on the island.Share on FB Share on TT