USA-Cuba, Another Context after two Years of New Diplomatic Ties

Washington (Prensa Latina) The reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba came on July 20 to its second anniversary marked by a decline in bilateral ties due to Washington’s new hard line stance.

On June 16, US President Donald Trump announced changes in his administration towards Cuba, which will reverse some of the actions launched by his predecessor, Barack Obama that had started on December 17, 2014.

On that day, former President Obama and Cuban Head of State Raul Castro announced that both countries would begin a process aimed at normalizing their ties. As part of the initiative, Havana and Washington held several rounds of talks on different issues in both capitals, and reopened their respective embassies in the summer of 2015.

During more than two years and until January 20 this year when Obama left the White House and Trump took power, Cuba and the United States had adopted 22 bilateral agreements in order to advance the common purpose stated.

Thus came agreements, memoranda of understanding and treaties on plant and animal health, migration, safety for maritime navigation, rescue of people, fight against drug trafficking and regular flights. Other agreements related to direct mail, agriculture, health, meteorology, seismology, protected land and marine areas, and the twinning of the national parks of the Zapata Swamp and Everglades, also emerged during that time.

The two countries also signed a treaty on the delimitation of the Continental Shelf in the Eastern Polygon of the Gulf of Mexico, beyond 200 nautical miles.

Throughout this period, both nations held more than 50 technical meetings and cooperation actions on cybersecurity and the fight against drug and human trafficking, terrorism and immigration fraud.

At the dialogue tables, they addressed issues such as maritime and aviation safety, environmental protection, legal assistance in criminal matters and combating money laundering.

On the other hand, more than 20 dialogues were developed related to the application and enforcement of law, economy, telecommunications, human rights, mutual compensation, and arms disarmament and non-proliferation.

The United States excluded Cuba from the list of states sponsoring terrorism, and Raul Castro and Obama met and spoke three times, the last one when the African-American President officially visited Havana in March 2016.

Almost a week before the end of his term, Obama repealed the dry foot-wet foot policy and the parole program for Cuban doctors, which represented an encouragement to insecure immigration to the United States.

However, the persistence of the US blockade against Cuba, a policy of more than 55 years, remains the main obstacle to the normalization of bilateral relations.

Although Obama issued several measures to change the application of the economic, commercial and financial blockade, he did not use all the available prerogatives, and with Trump’s announcements on June 16 last, Washington returned to its past of confrontations.

Trump announced the change of position in the city of Miami, Florida, and after concluding a speech on the subject, signed the National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba.

This document restricts the trips of the US citizens to the Caribbean country from bureaucratic barriers and the elimination of individual educational visits.

It also prohibits economic, commercial and financial transactions between US companies and Cuban companies linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces and intelligence and security services.

In that way, and as the Cuban government considered in a statement, additional obstacles are imposed on the already very restricted opportunities that the US business sector has to trade and invest in Cuba.

On the 16th of June, US federal agencies issued guidelines to refer to changes, and released documents included questions and answers about the new measures.

According to the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Treasury Department, its regulatory amendments would be issued in the coming months and the transformations will not take effect until the corresponding regulations appear.

For its part, the Department of Commerce will apply the necessary changes through amendments to its Export Administration Regulations.

On visits by US citizens to Cuba for people-to-people contact, which can only be done in groups because individual trips are prohibited, the information specified that travelers should keep a full schedule of educational exchange activities in case they would have to report back to US authorities.

Trump said his strategy will be aimed at enforcing the ban that prevents Americans from visiting Cuba and limiting trade to ‘prevent entry of money to the Cuban state.’

Clearly, the US president has not been well informed about the history of Cuba and relations with the United States, or about patriotism and dignity of Cuba, Raúl Castro said on 14 July.

At the close of the Ninth Period of Ordinary Sessions of the Eighth Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the Cuban President reiterated that history cannot be forgotten, ‘as we have sometimes been suggested to do.’

For more than 200 years, the ties between Cuba and the United States have been marked, on the one hand, by the pretensions of the Northern neighbor of domination over our country and, on the other, by the determination of Cubans to be free, independent and sovereign, he stressed.

He said that the US government has decided to tighten the blockade, and justifies its measures with an old and hostile rhetoric, typical of the Cold War era.

Trump’s decisions ignore the support of broad US sectors to the normalization of relations and only serve the interests of an increasingly isolated and minority group of Cuban origin in South Florida that insists on harming Cuba and its people, who always defended, at any price, its right to be free, independent and sovereign, he added.

We reaffirm that any strategy that seeks to destroy the Revolution, whether through coercion and pressure or through subtle methods, will fail, said the Cuban President.

Similarly, we reject manipulation of the human rights issue against Cuba. We have much to be proud of for the achievements and we do not have to receive lessons from the United States or anybody, he said.

Raúl Castro repeated that Cuba has the will to continue negotiating pending bilateral issues with the United States, based on equality and respect for its sovereignty and independence.

-Diony Sanabia


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