Thursday, July 21, 2016

A year on, Cuba urges Obama to make thaw 'irreversible'

A year on, Cuba urges Obama to make thaw 'irreversible'
AFP July 20, 2016

Havana (AFP) - Cuba called Wednesday on US President Barack Obama to
make the former Cold War enemies' reconciliation "irreversible," as they
marked one year since the restoration of diplomatic ties.

With the United States hurtling toward its November presidential
election, Josefina Vidal, Cuba's top diplomat for US affairs, urged
Obama to ensure his successor cannot undo the countries' historic

Obama "can do much more to make the process irreversible going forward,"
she said in an interview published in the ruling Communist party's
official newspaper, Granma.

"Cuba has reiterated the importance of the president using his executive
authority to the maximum to continue introducing political changes."

Since Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced the thaw in
December 2014, Washington and Havana have taken once-unthinkable steps
to mend ties after more than half a century of enmity.

Obama has relaxed portions of the US embargo imposed since 1962, paving
the way for visible changes.

Cruise ships can now sail from Miami to Havana, regular commercial
flights are due to resume in the coming months, US companies like Airbnb
and Netflix now operate in Cuba and American hotel group Starwood
recently opened a Sheraton in Havana.

But Obama, who visited Havana in March, has failed to persuade his
Republican opponents in Congress to lift the full embargo, the main
source of lingering tension.

Political analysts say neither Donald Trump, the Republican presidential
nominee, nor Hillary Clinton, his presumptive Democratic rival, would
likely reverse the rapprochement -- though they may not make the ongoing
negotiations a priority.

Vidal said some of Obama's changes -- including a green light for Cuba
to use the dollar and transact with US banks -- have still not taken effect.

"Our financial transactions continue to be blocked... we are denied all
kinds of services, including our diplomatic missions and offices abroad,
and banks and foreign entities linked to our country continue receiving
fines," she said.

"The US government has not issued any political statement or legal
document explaining to the banks of the world that operations with Cuba
are legitimate and will not be sanctioned."

The United States for its part continues pushing Cuba to promise greater
human rights protections -- a message that has so far received a steely
response from the Castro regime.

"Tough conversations on challenging issues such as human rights... lie
ahead," said the US ambassador to Cuba, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, ahead of
the anniversary.

Source: A year on, Cuba urges Obama to make thaw 'irreversible' -

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