Continuing Blockade

It’s unlikely for Donald Trump to reverse Cuba-US relations despite anti-Cuba hysteria that continues to sway a section of American establishment still. After all both Republicans and Democrats agree not to disagree on the failure of prolonged blockade on Cuba. American policy of isolating and containing Cuba has failed miserably.... And in the process America isolated itself globally in diplomacy as also in popular perception across the world.

For all practical purposes progress in normalisation of Cuba-US ties is very slow—it is moving at a snail’s pace as the Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said the other day, ‘‘the economic, commercial and financial blockade persists’’.

Meanwhile in a historic step toward lifting the blockade on Cuba, the United States on 26 October, 2016 abstained in the United Nations General Assembly vote, unanimously calling for the end of the Cold War measure for the 25th consecutive year.

The United States had always voted against this resolution. This was the first time the US abstained.

Only two countries, the United States and Israel, abstained from the vote, while 191 of the 193 member states in the assembly voted in favour of the resolution. In 2015, 191 states voted in favour of the resolution. Only the United States and Israel voted against it.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez presented the draft resolution to the assembly, heralding the US announcement of a historic abstention as a "positive step" in the ongoing process of normalising relations between the two countries after decades of resistance by Cuban people

Rodriguez highlighted the fact that Barack Obama and other leaders have acknowledged the "obsolete" nature of the blockade and the fact that it is a "failed nonsensical and unviable policy and a burden to all citizens that harms the Cuban people and plunges the United States into isolation and should be lifted." He also argued that ending the blockade would give "meaning, depth and soundness" to the progress toward renewed relations that has been made so far since the end of 2014.

The representative of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, known as Celac, the Dominican Republic's Francis Lorenzo, echoed condemnation of the blockade for going against the UN charter and international law, calling the measure "unjust" and a "major obstacle to the normal development of Cuba".

Washington's overtures to restore normal diplomatic relations with the island nation proceeds in fits-and-starts. Barack Obama has assured Raul Castro that the blockade will be lifted, but he has not specified an expected timeline of when that might happen despite maintaining that it is a logical step in the normalisation of ties. In September, 2016 Obama renewed the US Trading with the Enemy Act, extending the blockade against Cuba for another year. Obama has admitted that the blockade is "hurting the Cuban people." In other words American policy makers are advancing reluctantly in normalising relations with Cuba.

Cuba claims that the blockade has cost the island nation US$4.7 billion in past year in lost potential export revenue and trade and financial transactions and a whopping US$ 753.7 billion over the past half century.

Cuban officials have repeatedly insisted that ending the blockade is an essential precursor to the full reestablishment of US-Cuba relations, which reached a breakthrough with a historic rapprochement in 2014, criticising the policy as an outdated relic of Cold War-era politics.

Despite the landmark reopening of foreign embassies in Havana and Washington, commercial flights between the two countries, and other changes, talks are ongoing and diplomatic challenges remain. And the blockade continues to be at the centre of the debate.

Cuba has also called on the US to return the US naval-occupied territory of Guantanamo to the island, end the Cold War-era migration policy toward Cubans, and to respect Cuban sovereignty by halting all funding of anti-government groups. But Washington is silent. Nobody knows when they will return Guantanamo to Cuba.


Vol. 49, No.29, Jan 22 - 28, 2017