Bipartisan Support for Ties with Cuba Continues in U.S.

The bipartisan support to engagement with Cuba has strongly increased in the United States over the past two years and we will continue seeing it in the future, said the president of a coalition that promotes ties with the Caribbean island.

The president of Engage Cuba, James Williams, regretted the announcement made last month by President Donald Trump on the reverse of some aspects of the opening to Cuba, which he described as a step back on the path to the normalization of bilateral relations.

However, he pointed out that amid that situation, the effusive support to continue seeking more engagement with the neighboring country, with which the United States reestablished diplomatic relations on July 20, 2015, was notable.

We are having a dialogue on Cuba that we had not seen for a long time and that is very different even from the one that existed two years ago, Williams said in an interview with Prensa Latina.

According to Williams, it is a great achievement for the two countries, and for people on U.S. territory who think that engagement is the best path after 55 years of a failed policy of restrictions.

He pointed out that although hard-line politicians want to reverse things, it is evident that the context is not the same as in other times, because steps have been taken in matters like more U.S. citizens visiting Cuba, travels by airlines and cruises, business interests.

If the Trump administration does not involve constructively in the engagement, others will have to take the place and continue building bridges, said Williams, whose organization seeks the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade that Washington has imposed on Cuba.

'I think that we are seeing that and that we will see even more, more members of Congress and governors will go to Cuba, as well as other people who see the vacuum of leadership in that regard and want to fill it,' he noted.

Asked about the coalition's work after Trump's decision, Williams stated that they have focused on regulations that must be announced in the next few months.

When he signed the Cuba policy memorandum, the president said that travels by U.S. citizens to Cuba would be limited and that economic, commercial and financial transactions between U.S. companies and Cuban firms linked to the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the intelligence and security services would be prohibited, among other measures.

The announcement on June 16 was a speech and a presidential policy directive, but the interpretation of how those measures will be regulated is what will have a real impact, Williams explained.

According to the president of Engage Cuba, they are interested in listening to the voices of the Cuban people, including the private sector, and that they are not only rules designed offstage by political groups in Washington.

Our hope would be that the leadership at the bipartisan level includes that and that the White House, after making deals in the shadows before, comes to the fore, listens to experts from both sides to have a real conversation, he noted.

It would be the best path, that the two governments can sit at the table and talk, that the peoples dialogue with each other and that the process is not guided by only few, he added.

However, he described as uncertain the role to be played by the agencies in charge of the new measures, because they were already marginalized when the Cuba policy was reviewed.

'Will they play a role now? I hope so, their technical experience is essential to prepare those regulations, but that does not mean necessarily that the administration will listen to them,' he stated.

Williams noted that Engage Cuba is making efforts to explain why relations are important to the largest universe of people possible, in the Capitol, in the White House, the agencies or the state governments.

He pointed out that most of those involved are waiting for new guidelines to come into effect three months after the president's announcement, but anything might happen until then, because the federal agencies accumulate lots of tasks, staff problems and many other important matters to attend to.

Anyway, he said, we have a limited window of time; therefore, we are working on the matter of bilateral ties with Cuba as if there is no tomorrow.

  • Published in Cuba

Trump Divides the Cuban “Exile” in Miami

The Spanish news agency EFE insinuated so from Miami.

It highlights the controversy between followers and opponents of approaching Cuba, “it can grow larger” with the changes announced by Donald Trump scheduled next Friday.

According to the same source, this will come amidst great expectation.

Such setback they say that the “anti-Castro groups” of Miami are eagerly expecting the so-called concessions to the island.

EFE says that the core is whether or not, a turning in the politics set under Barack Obama’s administration towards Cuba.

Such a setback, it underlined, it was a promise made by Trump in his electoral campaign of 2016 at the headquarters of Brigade 2506.

That military group, created by the CIA in 1961, attacked Cuba and became symbol of the far-right with Cuban origins.

EFE highlights that its association of veterans trusts Trump to meet his end regarding the Cuban issue.

This group, and other anti-Cuban groups financed by Washington, has asked the president “a zero politics towards Havana”, reads the comment.

“Obama’s concessions were an insult to 57 years of dictatorship”, declared the head of what is left of the failed brigade, Humberto Díaz-Argüelles.

The priority for Orlando Gutiérrez, head of the group Directorio Democratico, is still “reestablishment of freedom and democracy as objective of the North American politics towards Cuba.”

A commitment that, according to Gutiérrez, passes by turning back those “unilateral concessions” towards Cuba and in the “economic opening carried out without the régime granting anything back.”

On the contrary, The CubaOne Foundation, integrated by young Cuban-Americans, asked the leader not to return to the Cold War tactics and defend the North American interests as well as the well-being of the Cuban people.

Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the Democracy Movement and opposed to the so-called blockade against the island, pled that any restriction doesn't affect the ties “of people to people.”

In that panorama, a survey published last Monday by Engage Cuba Coalition dismantles the thesis that republicans oppose the politics passed by Obama toward this.

In fact, the organization asserts, a majority of republican voters want to keep ties with the Cubans.

The study, carried out last May by the entity that comprises private companies, indicates that 64% of republican voters support the changes made by President Obama, while 22% is against it.

“Our new politics towards Cuba has strengthened the economy, created employments in the United States, and reinforced national security”, said the coalition.

They also alerted that it would be a shame that Trump pull back the current politics with Havana.

“If the President is willing to negotiate with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, and the Philippines, why not with Cuba?”, wondered the president of Engage Cuba, James Williams.

Last Tuesday a journalist from the New Herald, Nora Gámez Torres added:

Even when President Trump has not announced yet what his politics toward the island will consist on, a result is already evident:

Cuban opponents of different political trends approve the need to make changes to press their government.

One of the leaders who command the labyrinth of groups directed from Washington, José Daniel Ferrer, wrote to favor the change because Cuba supports Venezuela.

Ferrer, let’s remember, supported the approach that started in 2014 by Barack Obama toward Cuba.

The “dissident”, remarked Gámez Torres, didn't specify which measures the U.S. president should revert.

The journalist remembered that Obama favored changes “boosted by the private sector and not by the dissidents.”

That, according to her point of view, divided to a degree the Cuban opposition.

But now, she emphasized, many of its members prefer a political change that joins the defense of human rights and the blockade to the investing of foreign currencies in a difficult moment for the Cuban nation.

There is the true face of Cuba’s enemies, only hours away from Trump to unroll his new politics towards Cuba.

End the Cuba trade embargo and support US exports

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join a “people-to-people” trip to Cuba, visiting not only Havana but smaller towns, such as Ceinfuegos and Trinidad. We met with Cubans from many walks of life, in their businesses, on their farms and in their homes.

The Cuban government has slowly opened their economy to private enterprise, especially in the visitor sector, and has lifted restrictions on technology and access to a world of information. The new influx of American visitors, eating at private restaurants, staying in bed-and-breakfasts booked on Airbnb and supporting artists and musicians is slowly changing the Cuban economy.

But as relations between the U.S. and Cuba are starting to thaw, the trade embargo remains, leaving U.S. companies on the outside as our competitors from abroad gain a foothold.

While the 1962 trade embargo appears to have trapped Cuba in the 1950s, it is a superficial view supported by the sight of old American cars and the few signs of post-1960 construction in city centers. Behind that old facade are modern products from countries from across the globe — Samsung refrigerators, LG flat-screen TVs, French and South Korean cars and smartphones. While Cuba trades with China, Canada, Europe and Brazil, there are no American cars on the road manufactured after 1961, no GE appliances, no parts for their fishing boats or construction materials. Our minor footprint is in the form of food products, like Tabasco sauce and Coke — though the Coke comes from Mexico, not Atlanta.

Meanwhile, there is an underground economy that imports products into the country on every flight from Miami. Mountains of shrink-wrapped products are included as “luggage” by Cubans traveling with U.S. visas. Ask a restaurant owner how he has Costco salt and pepper grinders on each table, and he will tell you it is the same way he has umbrellas from Home Depot: He pays a big surcharge to bring the items back from his regular visit to Florida.

While I am old enough to remember the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, most Cubans, like most Americans, are not. It is hard to explain how an island of 11 million people can still be seen as a threat to peace and stability in the region. In fact, we know it isn’t.

A Gallup poll in 2015 found that almost 60 percent of Americans support ending the trade embargo. As far back as 2009, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — not exactly a bastion of liberalism — testified before Congress that “The U.S. embargo on Cuba is one of the biggest foreign policy failures of the past half century and should come to an end.”

The world economy has changed since the early 1960s, so we can never account for 70 percent of Cuban imports like we did before the embargo. However, we should see some new American cars on the streets of Havana amongst those from Europe and Asia, more agricultural goods and technology products.

Change is coming to Cuba, and America should recognize what’s good for business and be a trading partner in that process.

Parliament of Catalonia Lashes out US Blockade on Cuba

The parliament of Catalonia today urged the United States to end the blockade imposed on Cuba for over half a century, according to the international community.

At Joan Josep Nuet´s suggestion, deputy of the Catalonia Yes We Can Left-Wing Coalition, the autonomous legislative chamber adopted a motion of condemnation to that economic, commercial and financial siege.

In his presentation, Nuet stressed that despite the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between USA and Cuba, the US government continues applying that siege to the Caribbean island.

He stated that the extraterritorial reach of this unilateral measure is the main obstacle for Cuban people progress and full normalization with its USA.

He denounced that the US administration maintains sanctions to third countries, which, he stressed that it violates international law and contradicts the terms of coexistence expressed in the precepts of the UN Charter.

Similar motions were also confirmed by 77 Spanish municipalities, according to Cuban diplomatic sources.

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Cuba-U.S.: February 7, 1962

More than half a century later, ordinance 3447 signed by Kennedy has not lose all its strength in official circles of Washington; it has neither erased the political-moral isolation of those clinging to its loose ends.

On February 7, 1962 started the execution of the already virtually established North American blockade against Cuba.

On January 1, 1959 the tyranny of Fulgencio Batista was overthrown and hours later Fidel Castro Ruz forewarned: “The happiness is great, but perhaps from now on, everything will be more difficult”, said the revolutionary leader.

Where resides the core of the bilateral conflict that Washington government imposed –around that time - to frustrate the agrarian reformation and other domestic measures?

Firstly, the Revolution had shattered the neocolonial status given to Cuba since the military North American intervention of 1898.

A social justice program began shortly afterwards for millions of “ordinary people” and expelled from Cuban soil the military North American mission that supported tyrant Batista.

Some analysts characterize this singular period as something Washington called “the original sin” of the Cuban Revolution.

That explains that three weeks prior January 1, 1959, the word blockade against Cuba was already mentioned.

Such one-sided politics was further defined on February 3, 1962, when the U.S. President at the time, John F. Kennedy, passed ordinance number 3447 that established the “embargo” of trade with its former colony.

That document halted all imports to the northern country of all Cuban products, since when?

Starting at 12 a.m. February 7, 1962.

The document read: “I hereby order the Secretary of Commerce to keep banning all exports from the United States to Cuba…”

When was the blockade put into force?

When the former Cuban colony still greatly depended of its commerce with the powerful neighbor from the North, and a serious military crisis between both countries was looming.

On February 7, 1962 the already virtually established North American blockade against Cuba was set in motion.

More than half century later, ordinance 3447 signed by Kennedy it’s still strong in official spheres of Washington.

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US Religious People Plead for End of Blockade on Cuba

John McCoollogh, Church World Service CEO, has reiterated the need to put an end to the economic, financial and trade blockade imposed by the White House on Cuba more than 50 years ago.

Speaking to Prensa Latina, he stressed the progress in almost more than two years of the resumption of ties between the two nations although, he warned, there are still a lot of things to do.

'We as religious people have the commitment to make the Congress of my country understand the need to eliminate the blockade, so there is more freedom of movement between the peoples of Cuba and the United States and this contact allows an increase in their quality of life,' McCoollogh said.

The U.S. reverend also stated that the process of rapprochement in the diplomatic relations between the two nations is also the result of the work of the Council of Churches of the two countries through the years.

He added that in order to reach the present moment, a rational and respectful dialogue took place between the two sides that overcame the past for a world of peace prevailed.

McCollogh stated that the religious people, through the word, can reach the hearts, minds and imagination of the peoples in a different way and not only with political language, so that they can have a wider vision of the reality.

McCollogh and the delegation accompanying him will end their trip on Friday, January 13th, after meeting with ecclesiastical and government authorities in the country.

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