HAVANA._Anyone with an interest in keeping up to date on the United States economic blockade against Cuba need not look beyond the difficulties facing U.S. businesses interested in taking advantage of the recent developments between both countries.
On last December 17, presidents Raúl Castro and Barack Obama announced their decision to reestablish diplomatic ties broken by Washington in 1961 and to open embassies in their respective capital cities.
However, the policy of unilateral sanctions that Washington has maintained on the Caribbean island for more than 50 years is undermining this progress.
Even though the blockade can only be completely repealed by the U.S. legislature, U.S. law affords Obama wide executive powers that could eliminate the foundations of the unilateral policy.
However, so far, he has done very little about the matter.
This is what representatives of broad business interests, who come up against obstacles on a daily basis in their efforts to form contacts in Cuba, say.
One such case is that of United American Shipping that is interested in carrying passengers and cargo to Cuba in the face of the growing interest of travelling to the island over the past months.
Joseph Hinson, an executive of the company, applied for a license in 2010 to operate a shipping route between Florida and Cuba - he never got a reply from his government. Local media report that he has now, more optimistically, resubmitted his request.
Another company, CubaKat, that never got an answer to a 2011 license application, hopes to launch catamaran services, to be booked online, from the Florida Keys to Cuba later this year.
Treasury and Commerce department regulations in effect since last January 16 have slightly loosened travel restrictions to Cuba but do not allow for passenger ferry crossings to this country.
They also still prohibit U.S. citizens from enjoying beach and city tourism in Cuba.
For these business projects to be realized, they require the approval of the Office for the Control of Foreign Assets(OFAC), which oversees compliance with punitive measures imposed by the Departments of State and Commerce and the Coast Guard Service.
This is to say that the ever present blockade and the absence of political will to implement changes halter the aforementioned businesses as well as others.
This was acknowledged by Devry Boughner Vorwerk, president of the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba (USACC), who, during a recent visit here spoke of the actions that her group is implementing in order to convince lawmakers of the need to lift the aforementioned sanctions. Broughner led almost 100 agriculture sector representatives that travelled to Cuba.
Even though the U.S. congress approved food and medicinal sales to Cuba in 2002, the legislation excludes the granting of credit while payments must be made in cash and in advance.
These are just some of many examples of the obstacles the blockade imposes in regard to commercial deals between both nations.
Another indication that nothing has changed regarding the sanctions is the recent fine of over 7 billion dollars levied on Germany’s second largest financial institution Commerzbank by Washington, for financial transactions with Cuba and other nations subject to U.S. sanctions.
This action attests to the extraterritorial nature of the blockade against Cuba; one of the reasons for which it has been condemned at the annual U.N. General Assembly sessions for more than two decades.Share on FB Share on TT