Even as relations warm, Obama renews state of emergency against Cuba

Sources:  USA Today, TeleSUR
February 24 2016

cuba us relations.jpgRelations might be warming between the U.S. and Cuba, but President Barack Obama’s move on Wednesday was ice cold.

The U.S. leader renewed a 20-year-old state of national emergency to continue to administer the blockade against the Caribbean island, at the same time as planning a trip there within weeks to take talks over normalizing diplomatic ties to the next stage.

Obama’s Proclamation 9398 prolongs the financially crippling blockade begun under President Bill Clinton in 1996, using emergency powers sanctioned by Congress.

It bans ships and planes from the U.S. from entering Cuban waters or airspace without government permission, and requires the president to annually renew these emergency powers.

There is one revision to Obama’s blockade action, USA Today reports, in that the Coast Guard are only allowed to inspect and seize vessels believed to have violated the blockade “to the extent consistent with international law.”

bush Obama y clinton 2.jpgBut in renewing the blockade, Obama also softened the language used to justify the emergency. He removed the more bellicose language used by Presidents Clinton andBush that Cuba “has demonstrated a ready and reckless willingness to use excessive force, including deadly force,” against the United States, and instead expressed a desire for “a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Cuba.”

Clinton declared a state of emergency on March 1, 1996.

According to the United Nations, the U.S. blockade has cost Cuba US$117 billion

One thought on “Even as relations warm, Obama renews state of emergency against Cuba

  1. Let all those who have eyes to see, see and all those who have ears to hear, hear! There is no rocket science involved in the political machinations of the US government regarding the criminal blockade imposed on Cuba nearly 60 years ago.

    There is a simple fact involved here. Firstly, it is either President Obama and his government want to normalize relations with Cuba or they don’t want to normalize those relations.

    If there is a political commitment to normalize relations then it seems reasonable to suppose that President Obama should be doing things to lay the foundation to strip the blockade of its costly effects on the Cuban people. The latter by definition particularly on the verge of a visit to Cuba should exclude the renewal of the state of emergency against a country that will soon be the host to Mr.Obama. That strikes me as not only undiplomatic but also just plain ungracious to an imminent host.

    However, that is how arguably the richest and most powerful country in human history chooses to use its power against a small and poorer country like Cuba for over a century now.

    Secondly, the declaration of the state of emergency to renew the blockade also sends the wrong message to the Cuban government as to the seriousness of President Obama and his government to normalize relations with Cuba given that one of the primary conditions towards that end must be the ending of the blockade. The latter is a cornerstone requirement of the Cuban government to have and maintain normal relations with Cuba. The latter is well known to President Obama and the US government.

    Thus rewriting the more bellicose language in the state of emergency in milder language is progress compared to the more bellicose language. That is for sure, however, it’s the kind of progress that pulls the dagger stuck in one’s heart a 1/4 inch out though still leaving the dagger in one’s heart causing potential death. That’s what the blockade has been doing and is doing to Cuba for nearly the full life of the Cuban revolution.

    Thirdly, it would be interesting to know what would have motivated the president to declare a state of emergency albeit with milder language against a government with which it is in active negotiation about the normalization. Who and what social and political forces in the Democratic Party and or the state machinery in the US may have suggested that the president’s action is in any way influenced by the current presidential race of his party in a state like Florida?

    There is no direct accusation of President Obama here or of the US government in the absence of hard evidence. On the contrary, there is only curiosity as to what or who could have led to the President’s declaration of the state of emergency against Cuba. Is the president’s action intended to stall or frustrate the Cuban government regarding the “normalization” of relations so as to ward off attempts on the part of Trump and the anti-Cuban elements in Miami and Florida that may create political difficulties for the democrats in Florida?

    The latter is not clear right now. However, what should be clear is that President Obama should be taking clear measures to weaken the blockade in all its dimensions within his powers because that is one of the things that is required to normalize relationships with Cuba.

    In this context, President Obama’s decision to declare a state of emergency against Cuba is not helpful to the process of normalizing relations with Cuba.

    The relevance of the latter becomes even more pressing when one considers the many other challenges that are involved in the normalization of relations between the US-Cuba.

    Some of the other challenges confronting the normalization of relations between Cuba-US include the return of the naval base of Guantanamo Bay seized by the US government after the triumph of the revolution in 1959, reparations for the onerous and costly damages inflicted on the Cuban economy and people by the blockade for nearly 60 years, ending the multiple acts of sabotage by anti-Cuban groups among others that the Cuban government are demanding as conditions for the normalization of relations between the two countries.

    As such the ending of the blockade is just one of the challenges that is required to normalize relations with a country like Cuba which takes pride in its dignity and independence.

    Admittedly, President Obama’s powers can do more to weaken the blockade though it will take an act of Congress to undo what the US Congress did nearly 60 years ago.

    Frankly, the test of President Obama’s seriousness in normalizing relations with Cuba will be how he uses his presidential powers to weaken the blockade as opposed to declaring a state of emergency albeit with softer language against his imminent host.

    So to close this piece, President Obama and his government should be giving very serious thoughts to the many cited challenges faced by the normalization of relations with Cuba rather than declaring a state of emergency albeit with milder language against a country that has suffered immensely due to the US blockade and several other acts of sabotage and economic aggression.

    Thus, it should never be lost on us that President Obama’s declaration of a state of emergency against Cuba has done virtually nothing despite the changed language to weaken the economic blockade and has not even began to address the other major challenges facing the normalization of relationships between both countries.

    Again, let those who have eyes to see use them to see who is holding up the normalization of relations with Cuba and those who have ears to hear use them to hear the reality of the normalization of relations with Cuba.

    “Peace if you are willing to fight for it” Fred Hampton

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