President Obama marked the one-year anniversary of his move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba by calling on Congress to end the USA embargo, saying normalization is a “long journey”.
The diplomatic advance would help open the way for US airlines to begin flying to Cuba within months in what would likely be the biggest step toward tighter economic ties since the two countries began normalizing relations a year ago.
The governments of Cuba and the United States agreed to restore direct commercial flights between the two countries after more than half a century, the US State Department announced today, reported dpa news. The official could not say when flights would actually resume, because there are other steps the Federal Aviation Administration needs to take to ensure certain safety regulations are in place. But even as the two countries draw closer, Washington continues to criticise the Communist, one-party political system. The deal does not mean that Americans will be able to begin booking travel to Cuba immediately.
“The first year of President Obama’s Cuba policy has been like the rest of his foreign policy: a disaster that prioritizes legacy-shaping headlines over freedom and results, treats our enemies far better than our allies, and negotiates deals from a position of weakness”, Sen. The terminal at Jose Martí International Airport where the chartered USA planes land is relatively small so there are some physical limitations to the amount of commercial flights that can be scheduled.
The news comes as travel between the US and Cuba surged by over 70% this year, according to Reuters.
Castro also reiterated Cuba’s commitment to socialism and bemoaned USA programs aimed at undermining the Cuban government, such as support for dissidents.
USA travelers still must meet at least one of 12 criteria to visit, such as being Cuban-American or taking part in educational tours or journalistic activity.
“We intend to continue to be the largest carrier between the USA and Cuba when scheduled service starts”, he said. Other carriers, including American Airlines and United Airlines, have expressed interest in starting commercial flights as soon as they get permission.
On December 14, 15 and 16 the third round of technical talks on civil aviation between delegations from Cuba and the United States, including the establishment of scheduled flights between both countries, was held in Washington.
South Texas News, December 27, 2015