Six months after last Dec. 17’s announcement, Obama could have done more. Even if only to stick to his word.
Six months have passed since U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro’s historic announcement last Dec. 17. Given that it is not Cuba that has hounded the United States, but Washington that has blockaded the Caribbean island, it seems an opportune moment to look into what’s behind the new policy, which has been condemned by the international community with increasing force.
On doing so, it is not surprising to find out that the blockade’s status remains almost unchanged. There have been several rounds of talks seeking to normalize US-Cuba relations, but, so far, the actions and concrete decisions taken by White House have been few and of little significance. Worse still, days before the announcement, the U.S. Treasury Department fined the German Commerzbank to the tune of US$1 billion for its financial transactions with Cuba. The decision to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism — an absurd label it has worn since 1982, the Reagan years — could have facilitated a path back to economic normality, but, so far, very little has been done.
While it is thought it is a lack of Congressional support for White House policy that is impeding the progress of the normalization process, a team of U.S. lawyers has shown that should Obama want to drive through measures to significantly reduce the harmful effects of the blockade, he has an ample toolkit of executive powers to do so.
By way of illustration, it is thought he could authorize the establishment of regular air routes by U.S. and Cuban carriers; or, U.S. visitors to the island could bring back, for personal use or as gifts, any type of Cuban-produced goods, without discriminatory limitations (similar to those permitted in other countries), according to the type of item (rum, tobacco, etc.) or its corresponding value; allow the establishment of corresponding relations between banks of both countries; eliminate or reduce, for certain U.S. products, the requirement that Cuba pay for its purchases “in cash and in advance”; authorize the use of U.S. dollars in commercial transactions made by Cuban companies and facilitate the “clearing” process through U.S. banks; abolish the “veto Cuba” policy in international financial institutions when approving loans or grants to the island; abolish the ban preventing ships that have transported cargo to or from Cuba to dock in U.S. ports within 180 days after leaving a Cuban port, as well as authorizing vessels carrying goods or passengers between the countries to dock in U.S. ports; grant a general license allowing an unlimited flow and frequency of remittances to individuals or Cuban-based nongovernmental organizations, including small farms; facilitate the passage to Cuba of computer and software made in the U.S., as well as resources dedicated to the development of telecommunications infrastructure materials; authorize U.S. citizens to receive medical treatment in Cuba, as well as the export from the U.S. of medicines, supplies and equipment for Cuban patients, or facilitate the entry to the U.S. of Cuba’s biotechnological advances, including medicines, for sale in that country.
This list, which could be extended to include many other actions, is sufficiently illustrative of the number of measures that may lessen the impact of the criminal blockade, if the political good will truly existed to build new bridges with Cuba. The big question is: Why is this not being done?
It could be surmised that Obama’s passivity is a strategy to weaken Cuba and negotiate from a position of strength in the normalization of diplomatic relations; or to appease his critics from the right, both within his own party and among the Republicans; or perhaps the bureaucratic machinery of state imposes rhythms and erects limitations as to what the occupant of the White House wants to do, as evidenced by his inability to close the Guantanamo prison despite his campaign promises; or perhaps it is a combination of the above.
But the truth is that, whatever Obama’s reasons as to why he is not making use of his powers, the blockade is continuing to cause serious damage to the Cuban economy and causing cruel suffering to its people. Perhaps at the root of this policy is the illusion that the continued blockade — and irritation it produces — may still provoke an eruption of popular protest to end the Cuban Revolution. Washington has kept up this stupid belief, refuted by history, for over half a century, but we know that one of the defining characteristics of the Empire is its sick stubbornness to seize Cuba, an ambition made public at the dawn of the U.S. republic by its second President John Adams, who declared in June 1783 the necessity to annex the Caribbean island to the United States.
Given that Obama made it clear the normalization of bilateral relations does not mean his country will abandon the idea of prompting “regime change” in Cuba, as he puts it, to facilitate the advent of democracy and freedom in the island — we have to ask: how did this occur in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Honduras? — it would not be surprising if his attitude were in fact an extension of that overbearing need felt by Adams more than two centuries ago, which the current occupant of the White House does not dare to dismiss, despite its immorality and the insurmountable evidence that it is an anachronism. Six months after last Dec. 17’s announcement, Obama could have done more. Even if only to stick to his word.
Atilio Borón, teleSURtv
June 30, 2015
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