Raul Castro calls for end of blockade to normalize relations with the US

Source:  Granma
March 21 2016

The blockade is the most important obstacle for the economic development and well-being of the Cuban people, therefore its elimination will be essential to normalize relations with the US, Cuban president Raul Castro said today.

raul y obama in cubaIn statements to the press, after holding talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama, Raul noted this unfair policy, imposed on the island over 50 years ago, is still in force, it has dissuasive components and intimidating effects with extraterritorial reach.

He acknowledged that the Obama administration has asked the US Congress several times to lift the blockade, while describing as ¨positive but not sufficient¨ the latest measures adopted by the White House to try to modify aspects of this economic war.

He added that its lifting will also be beneficial for the Cubans living abroad that wish the best for their families and their country, and for that reason he made a call for bigger steps for its complete elimination

Illegally occupied in Guantanamo

The Cuban president said that during the talks with Obama they discussed the devolution of the illegally occupied in Guantanamo, another hurdle for the full normalization of relations.

He added that within 15 months after the announcement of the decision to restore diplomatic relations ¨we have had important results¨

Besides mentioning specific agreements, like the restoration of the direct mail, he announced that today Cuba and the US will sign one on agriculture, and that currently they are negotiating a group of bilateral instruments to cooperate on the fight against drug trafficking, on safety and commerce

Joint work against Zika

Regarding health, Raul said they agreed on deepen the ties on the joint work against Zika, and chronic non-transmissible diseases, including cancer.

He told Obama that Cuba keeps its commitment to continue moving on the road to the normalization of relations ¨for the sake of our countries and peoples¨

He insisted on keeping a dialogue despite political and ideological differences, and that the decision to change everything that needs to be changed is a sovereign issue of the Cuban nation.

Coexistence in spite of the differences

Both countries should cooperate and coexist in spite of the differences in terms of peace, safety, political stability, development and equity in our continent

¨We have traveled a long road, that´s why is important to have started taking steps to establish a ¨relation of a new kind¨ he concluded

One thought on “Raul Castro calls for end of blockade to normalize relations with the US

  1. There are several obstacles that stand in the way of seriously normalizing relations between Cuba and the US. Not least among these obstacles is the ending of the the onerous and criminal blockade which has sapped Cuba’s growth and development for nearly 60 years.

    There is equally no doubt that the visit of President Obama and the first family to revolutionary Cuba is historic since he is the first president in 88 years to visit the Caribbean island.

    However, Mr. Obama’s visit is also importantly symbolic and perhaps mainly so in the continuation of the steps required to continue the talks and gestures required to solidify the evolving relations between both nations.

    Clearly, as Cuban President, Raul Castro has reiterated once again during President Obama’s current visit, the ending of the economic blockade against Cuba is the most important obstacle to enable the growth and development of the Cuban economy and society. Indeed, Raul Castro also underscored the importance of ending the blockade for the normalization of US-Cuba relations.

    Sadly, the fact is that despite President Obama’s visit and his policy decision to reverse nearly 60 years of the US government’s attempts to isolate Cuba, the blockade is still enforced against Cuba.

    Consequently, it is worthy to understand that among one of the multiple reasons for President Obama’s reversal of US policy towards Cuba is perhaps a little known domestic reason, namely, the opposition of the vast majority of Americans and American businesses of the blockade.

    The latter position of Americans and American businesses has been well known for many years by American pollsters since it has consistently shown up in repeated opinion surveys. However, the opposition of Americans and American businesses against the blockade was repeatedly ignored by the US government largely to appease the powerful anti-Cuban interests concentrated largely in Miami, Florida which during the Cold War era were generally in line with the US political, diplomatic, cultural and economic isolation of communist Cuba. Likewise, the relative dominance of the US in its “backyard” or Latin America prior to its declining influence in 2013 and particularly leading up to the Summit of the Americas in April 2015 also played an important role in the changing policy towards Cuba due to the principled stance of Latin American leaders that Cuba be invited to participate at the Summit.

    Specifically, as it relates to ending the blockade against Cuba without which both sides are aware that the normalization of relations is impossible, the American people and particularly the US corporations have two powerful lobbying roles to play to end the blockade.

    First, the US corporations can and should use their political clout as big donors to President Obama in his elections in 2008 and 2012 to pressure him to use his executive powers to weaken the blockade as president of the US. Secondly, the political clout of corporate power in the US also extends to the US Congress that ultimately has the legislative power to end the blockade in its totality since it gives huge sums of money to several congressional representatives in both the Democratic and Republican parties.

    The centrality of the US corporations in pressuring both the president and the Congress is also important for at least two other reasons. First, US corporations including agribusiness firms, pharmaceuticals, banks, Caterpillar and others have lost huge market shares over the years to their competitors in Japan, Europe, Canada and Latin America and as such they are now playing “catch-up” to gain a bite of the Cuban market. However, more importantly, Cuba needs to engage in trade with these American corporations not to foster capitalism in Cuba but instead to purchase vital productive inputs like fertilizers, machinery, buses, raw materials, medicines, foods and a wide array of other technologies to overhaul and modernize the country’s productive capacities in all spheres of the economy particularly the export sectors including tourism. Secondly, the geographical proximity of the US market to Cuba both as an exporter to the US as well as an importer of US commodities provides Cuba with an economic advantage, namely, Cuba’s transportation costs for its exports to US markets will be significantly lowered compared to its costs to export its products to Japan, Russia, China and Europe and its imports from the US will also be significantly cheaper compared to its imports of say machinery or foods from these distant markets.

    In this context, the ending of the US blockade can potentially be a win-win situation both to the US corporations and Cuba in that the former gets to sell their commodities to Cuba, invest in Cuba and make profits from their dealings with Cuba and the latter also gets to sell their exports to the US, makes profits and also incur huge savings due to their reduced costs from trading with a close neighbor.

    However, it must be clearly and forcefully stated in this regard that the pressure to end the onerous blockade cannot only be the responsibility of the US corporations given their narrow interests. More importantly the pressure from the American people themselves; artists, students, workers, labor unions, cooperatives, scholars, academics,scientists, journalists and others also have a major role to play in pressuring their respective senators, Congressional representatives as well as the president.

    These diverse groups of Americans also have a vested interest to bring the blockade to an end as they stand to gain from visiting Cuba as tourists, as scientists, performers, as collaborators in their respective fields with Cubans in similar fields.They also stand to gain from the multiple medical discoveries of Cuban researchers in medical research such as diabetes and other areas.

    As such the American people have a huge role to play in writing their political representatives in Congress
    , meeting with them and protesting against those who refuse to vote to end the blockade against Cuba.

    Finally, the governments of the Caribbean and Latin America who informed President Obama that they would have boycotted the Summit of the Americas in April 2015 if Cuba was not invited to participate should continue to press the US government and the CEOs of American corporations in their countries to put pressure on their government to end the blockade.

    The fact is that US-Cuba relations can never be normalized until and unless the US economic blockade is ended to facilitate trade, financial transactions, the free collaboration between Cuban and American artists, scholars, researchers and others, the free movement of Cubans and Americans between their respective nations and free investment between both nations.

    However, to end the blockade is only to remove the main obstacle to the normalization of relations between two unapologetically sovereign countries that should and must be the priority between both governments and peoples.

    However, both governments and peoples must also be mindful of the fact that there are several other obstacles or challenges to the normalization of the relations between the US-Cuba. Some of these other obstacles include:

    • the return of the Guantanamo Bay naval base to Cuba,

    •an end to US support for anti-Cuban terrorist groups that launch attacks against Cuba and Cuban interests around the world,

    •the pro-Cuban “wet foot dry-foot” US immigration policy deliberately designed to encourage immigration from Cuba including the immigration of highly trained Cubans and

    •the illegal use of Radio Marti to spread malicious propaganda against Cuba inside of Cuba.

    Thus, putting an end to the blockade is only a first step towards the normalization of relations between the US-Cuba though by no means the only challenge for the long term normalization of these relations. The other cited foregoing obstacles
    are also vitally important and must also be seriously and sensitively addressed if long term normalization of relations are to be based on the mutual respect of two proud and sovereign nations.

    Simply put, those who oppose the normalization of relations between Cuba and the US like Senators Cruz and Rubio and other senators and congressional representatives primarily Republicans though not exclusively so are not only living the Cold War past but more importantly they are trying to hold back the best that both Cubans and Americans have to offer to each other’s progress and prosperity. Furthermore, they are trying to deny the the logic of the American free enterprise system they claim to support from trading with Cuba to make profits and create jobs and incomes not only for Americans but also for Cubans.

    Sadly, politicians like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and others in the US are ideologues who are so rigid in their thinking about change that they even oppose the changing relations between Cuba and the US even when the vast majority of Americans including the younger generations of Cuban Americans and American corporations support these relations and the lifting of the blockade against Cuba!

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

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