HAVANA._ The announcements of last December 17 by Cuba and The United States about the reestablishment of diplomatic ties, broken by Washington in 1961, created great expectations in both countries.
Just over one month later, on January 21 and 22, representatives of both governments met in Havana where they agreed upon a course of action for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.
In the meeting, the Cuban side once again made clear that the economic, commercial and financial blockade that Washington has imposed on the Caribbean island for more than 50 years is still the main obstacle to normalization.
President Barack Obama is to a large extent responsible for this because he could use his executive powers to “bury the most fundamental instruments of the blockade.”
This was the view expressed by Josefina Vidal, Director General for the United States at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, who led the host delegation at the aforementioned negotiations.
Obama took a step in the right direction by facilitating measures to ease some restrictions that took effect last January 16, but these, among many other things, simply amount to a readjustment of U.S. imposed prohibitions on travel to Cuba, while the blockade remains in force.
The changes allow for certain commercial transactions, mainly in the telecommunications sector, and the possibility for U.S. financial institutions to start operations in Cuba.
Nevertheless, there are many aspects of U.S. Cuba policy that only the Congress can lift, one of which is the prohibition on U.S citizens traveling as tourists to Cuba.
While president Obama does not have the legal authority to allow Cuban enterprises to trade with their American counterparts in third countries, he could permit transactions with corporations located in the U.S.
Moreover, Obama does not have the power to permit the granting of credit facilities for the purchase of goods or services by U.S. financial institutions to their Cuban counterparts while payments must be made in cash in advance.
These are some of the elements that will make the road to normalization difficult and long, which is why both sides consider that time and effort are required to resolve these and other complicated issues.
This first impulse has aroused strong interest within the American business community, which is endeavoring to take advantage of new opportunities.
In this regard, the American Airlines, United, Jetblue, Southwest and Delta corporations announced their intention to initiate itineraries to Cuba, but their representatives have cautioned that such expressions are subject to their government’s approval.
Meanwhile, Executives at both the American Express and MasterCard companies have expressed interest in exploring business opportunities in Cuba, although, as yet, no dates or other details have been forthcoming.
In keeping with the enthusiasm inspired by the new bilateral political climate, Republican senator Jeff Flake has proposed legislation to end the travel ban on U.S. visitors to Cuba.
According to experts, this and other actions attest to the more favorable environment for the convincing of those on Capitol Hill that the policy of unilateral sanctions is totally obsolete and even harmful to the interests of the United States.
A poll recently conducted by Associated Press and public opinion research company GFK revealed that 60 percent of U.S. citizens believe that the White House should lift the blockade against Cuba and that just 35 percent are in favor of maintaining it.
The survey also shows that around 45 percent of those polled support the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between both nations and only 15 percent do not.Share on FB Share on TT