Cuban FM Announces Obama Visit Agenda

The agenda for the visit to be paid by US President Barack Obama on March 20-22 will include official talks, a tour of Old Havana and an address to the civil society, announced Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.

During a press conference from the Tryp Habana Libre hotel, where the press room for Obama's visit will operate, Rodriguez said that during his stay, the US president will have the chance to know the Island better and interact with the people and their organizations.

Next Sunday, he will tour Old Havana and visit the Havana Cathedral.

On Monday, he will hold official talks with his counterpart Raul Castro, and they will give a joint press conference.

Also on March 21, President Obama will pay tribute to Cuban National Hero Jose Marti, a figure that embodies the Cuban people's feelings, he announced.

A business event to be attended by representatives of the twonations will also be held on Monday.

On March 22, on the last day of his visit, President Obama will meet with the Cuban people and the civil society at the Alicia Alonso Grand Teater of Havanam where he will give a speech that will be broadcast live nationwide.

According to Rodriguez, Obama will be able to see a nation devoted to its economic and social development and with the guarantee of the full dignity of its citizens, which can boast gains that are illusion for many inhabitants of the planet.

He added that the visit will be a bright opportunity to identify new steps to be taken in the next few months as a contribution to the process to improve the bilateral relations.

  • Published in Now

Cuba Studies True Reach of New Measures announced by the U.S.

Cuba analyzes the true reach of the measures announced last March 15 by the U.S. to modify some aspects of the economic, commercial and financial blockade, asserted today Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez.

At a press conference, he pointed out that although what was announced by the North American departments of Treasure and Commerce is positive and it’s heading on the right path, it will be necessary to study its depth.

He highlighted the authorization given to Cuba to use North American dollars in its international transactions which soon Cuba will carry out transfers in that currency with third country banks as well as banks within the U.S.

These first movements will verify if these bank transactions are doable and whether foreign banks and North Americans have indications that they can do such operations without fear to unjust but intimidating penalizations, he explained.

He said he was hopeful that the recent fines against the German bank Commerzbank and the French Crédit Agricole after the advanced process of reestablishment of relationships between both countries do not repeat again.

He also commented that for this measure to be viable it will surely required political statements from a very high-level within the U.S. government, documents with juridical reach will be needed, legal clarifications, several explanations on behalf of the Department of Treasure that give security to both foreign and domestic banks.

Bruno Rodriguez said that it will be necessary to revert intimidating effects accumulated for decades especially in the last period when sanctions were applied to third country banks for amounts close to 14 thousand million dollars for establishing a legal contract with Cuba.

Rodríguez highlighted that some recent measures enlarge the reach of previous ones like that of trips with educational purposes, despite that it maintains the legal banning of traveling, which is considered insane and unjustified.

“Cuba is the only forbidden destination for North American citizens”, said the minister.

Here below the entire press conference:

On March 15, the Departments of the Treasury and of Commerce issued new regulations that modify the implementation of some aspects of the US blockade against Cuba.

This is the fourth announcement of this sort made by the Government of the United States since December 17, 2014, when the presidents of both countries made public their decision to re-establish diplomatic relations.

We are currently analyzing their scope and practical effects in order to confirm their feasibility.

After a preliminary consideration of these measures, it can be affirmed that they are positive.

Some of them expand the scope of those which had been adopted before; so is the case for the one authorizing now individual “people-to-people” educational travels. However, it should be recalled that the legal prohibition that prevents US citizens from freely traveling to Cuba is still in force. This prohibition should be lifted by the US Congress.

Cuba’s authorization to use US dollars in its international transactions, a measure which has been included in this new package, concerns an important aspect of the blockade. For this measure to be viable, the US Government is required to issue a political statement as well as clear and precise instructions that would provide legal and political guarantees to banks, in order to halt financial persecution and reverse the intimidating effects generated by the sanctions imposed for years on US and third-countries financial institutions for conducting legitimate transactions with Cuba.

In the coming days we will attempt to make some transfers in US dollars to confirm that these can be done and that the banks have received instructions indicating that they are allowed to engage in financial operations with Cuba without fear of sanctions. Besides, we hope that, from now on, such fines as those given to important banks, namely Commerzbank and Credit Agricole, just to mention the most recent examples, will not be applied again; and that foreign financial institutions would not refuse to make transactions with our country.

Authorizing Cuba to use US dollars does not mean that banking relations between Cuba and the United States have normalized. Cuban banks are still not allowed to open correspondent accounts in US banks, and therefore our operations will necessarily continue to be done through third parties, which increases operational costs as well as the amount of related procedures.

None of the other measures entered into force modify the implementation of fundamental aspects of the blockade. For example:

•   Investments other than those approved in our country’s telecom sector are not allowed.

•   The US ban on Cuban imports is still in force, and these include pharmaceuticals and biotech products. Thus, the limited authorized bilateral trade continues to be essentially a one-way trade. Only the absurd prohibition preventing US citizens from consuming and receiving Cuban products and services in third countries was modified.

•   Current restrictions on US exports to Cuba, which are limited and exclude key sectors of the Cuban economy, have not been modified.

•   Ships carrying goods to Cuba are still not allowed to touch US ports for a period of 180 days, thus increasing freight charges. The only measure adopted in this area was not meant to benefit Cuba, but rather to make US shipping companies operations   profitable.

•   Cuban as well as other countries’ individuals and companies are still arbitrarily listed as “specially designated nationals”, and for that reason they are prevented from doing transactions with US entities or their subsidiaries.

All of these restrictions could be eliminated by means of executive decisions.

The truth is that the blockade is still in force. Jack Lew, the Secretary of the Treasury, has himself recognized, two days ago, that the blockade still restricts, in a very, very significant way, the volume of transactions between Cuba and the United States.

The blockade also has dissuasive as well as punitive components. Here there are some examples:

•   US and foreign companies have been fined recently for providing services and equipment of US origin to Cuba.

•   Foreign companies trading with Cuban nickel and rum have seen their lines of credit cancelled and their bank transfers rejected, even if they were denominated in currencies other than the US dollar.

•   Foreign banks have closed down the bank accounts in currencies other than the US dollar maintained by the Cuban medical staff offering their cooperation in African countries.

•   US subsidiaries based in third countries have refused to provide their services to Cuban diplomatic missions and entities abroad.

The blockade is the most important obstacle to Cuba’s economic development and causes hardships to the Cuban people.

Therefore, lifting the blockade will be essential for normalizing relations between our two countries.

Senior officials of the US have stated that the purpose of the approved measures is “to empower” the Cuban people. If the US Government is really interested in helping the Cuban people, then the blockade should be lifted.

We recognize the position adopted by President Obama against the blockade and his repeated appeals to Congress urging it to lift it.

We expect the US Congress to act accordingly in the face of an almost unanimous claim of the international community and ever broader sectors of the US society and public opinion.

Cuba has engaged in the construction of a new relation with the United States, in the full exercise of its sovereignty and committed to its ideals of social justice and solidarity.

No one should expect that, in order to achieve that, Cuba will renounce anyone of its principles or its foreign policy, which is committed to the just causes all over the world and the defense of peoples’ self-determination.

Within a few days we will be welcoming the US President with our distinctive hospitality as well as with the respect and consideration he deserves in his condition as Head of State.

It will be an opportunity for him to know about our reality and meet a noble, proud and patriotic people struggling for a better future against all odds.

The US President will be able to see a nation that is involved in its economic and social development and the improvement of the wellbeing of its citizens, who enjoy rights and are able to show some achievements that are still a chimera for many countries of the world, despite our condition as a blockaded and underdeveloped country.

It will also be an important occasion to identify what new steps could be taken in the next few months to contribute to the process of improvement of relations, on the basis of respect and equality, for the benefit of both countries and peoples.

  • Published in Now

Maduro to Obama: Worry About Your Own Country

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sat down for an exclusive interview with teleSUR host Ernesto Villegas, for the debut of his new program, tackling tough questions on the economic war being waged against the country, while addressing allegations made against his government.      

President Maduro, as the first guest on Villegas’ new program called “Siete Preguntas,” or “Seven Questions,” sought to put to rest rumors and accusations brought against him by the opposition.

Maduro was frank in his assessment of the challenges facing Venezuela but remained optimistic that the present challenges would be overcome.   

“We are going through difficult times but we are here … Our project is destined to be victorious,” said Maduro.        

President Maduro had harsh words for U.S. President Barack Obama, who is nearing the end of his time in the White House, saying that Obama bid goodbye to Venezuela in a manner befitting his predecessor, George W. Bush. 

“In the U.S. there are thousands of children deported, the prison in Guantanamo, (Obama) also denies his responsibility in the disasters in Libya, Iraq,” the president said.         

“Obama, who are you to comment about Venezuela, you should worry about your country.”        

In light of Obama's official visit as president to Cuba this month, the Venezuelan leader said he saw through Obama's strategy to sow division between Venezuela and Cuba.        

“We and Cuba will continue building socialism,” said Maduro, who said that the bond between the two countries was as strong as ever, adding Obama's visit to Cuba also represents a victory for the island.       

The Venezuelan president also fielded difficult questions regarding corruption among state officials and the still rampant problem of hoarding of basic items and the selling of contraband goods.    

Maduro called on Venezuelans to act in their neighborhoods to eliminate the sale of contraband goods and replace them with “solidarity distribution networks.”      

He was sincere in his evaluation of the work done thus far by the state to root out corruption.     

“We’ve seen important progress but not as fast as one would wish,” said Maduro.   

The president also emphasized that a “mafia” continues to hoard goods, adding that authorities recently discovered yet another warehouse full of Venezuelan-produced food. 

It’s economic schemes like this, the president says, along with the lowered income from oil that is destabilizing Venezuela’s economy.       

The Venezuelan president emphasized the need to move away from the country's dependence on oil income, highlighting a dramatic drop in oil revenue.        

“We have minimal, minimal, minimal income from oil,” Maduro said.   

Villegas also asked the president if the opposition victory in parliamentary elections last December signaled a defeat of socialism in Venezuela.  

Maduro said he attributes the opposition’s December victory not as a rejection of socialism but a victory for the economic war being waged against the country, while acknowledging that Venezuela’s democracy was working as it should, imposing limits on the executive’s powers. 

“I cannot dissolve the National Assembly,” he said. “I am head of state and head of government but I have limits.”

Despite his criticisms of Obama, he and Maduro have at least one thing in common. President Maduro, like Obama, has been accused of being unable to hold office for allegedly not having been born inside the country.        

As with the infamous “Birther movement” in the United States, members of the Venezuelan opposition are trying to create doubt to discredit the legitimacy of the presidency. This accusation formed the basis of one of the questions asked of the Venezuelan leader.

The opposition cannot “distort the truth” that I am Venezuelan, Maduro said, adding that his birth certificate is a public document.

Cuban Council of Churches Welcomes President Barack Obama's upcoming Visit

The Cuban Council of Churches has issued an official statement, in which it welcomes U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to Cuba.

“We belief this visit could be very beneficial for our two countries, as well as for our region and the world, particularly in today's complex international scenario,” the statement read.

The Council of Churches highlights that Obama's visit will be a major step forward in the ongoing dialogue process towards the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.

Top Cuban Diplomat Warns Blockade Against Cuba Remains in Full Force

Josefina Vidal, Director General for the United States in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, warned that Washington's over 50-year economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba remains in full force and thorough enforcement.

In her Twitter account, Josefina Vidal noted that a U.S. company has been fined for trading with Cuba, confirming that the blockade remains in force.

This time, the U.S. Halliburton Corporation -- which specializes in oil field services -- must pay over 304,000 dollars for a 2011 commercial exchange with Cuba Petroleo Company in a oil drilling project in Cabinda, Angola.

Just days ago, on February 22nd, the United States Treasury Department had imposed a $614,250 fine on the French oil group CGG Services S.A. for violating regulations of Washington's blockade against Cuba.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry has warned that such sanctions are designed to deter companies from the U.S. and other nations from doing business with Cuba, and has reaffirmed the need to eliminate the blockade and advance in restoring bilateral relations.

  • Published in Now

Obama Suspends Declaration of Emergency on Cuba for a Year

US President Barack Obama postponed the state of emergency on Cuba declared in 1996 by William Clinton, after the bringing down of two planes which had violated Cuban national air territory several times.

The incident that took place after several warnings to the US authorities, on the provocations by anti-Cuban groups based in Miami, Florida, was taken as an excuse by the US government to increase its aggressive policy against the Caribbean island.

The Proclaim 9398 issued by Obama Wednesday, habitually gives continuity to the one ordered by Clinton, to forbid US ships and planes to enter in Cuban territorial air or waters.

By means of the document, Obama authorizes to the US Coast Guard Service vessels to inspect and even to occupy suspicious crafts of violating the US economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, although in this occasion it clarifies that only if an operation of this type is in accordance with the international law.

In this occasion, the text smooths the language used by the administrations of Clinton and George W. Bush to justify the continuity of the measure, and at the same time recognizes the reestablishment of the diplomatic relations between two nations, as well as the beginning of a process towards the standardization of the above mentioned ties.

According to the law of National Emergencies, a legal provision since the expressed one today expires unless the chief of the White House renews it every year.

Obama will travel to Cuba on March 21 and 22 next, in official visit, the first one of a US President since in 1928, when the president Calvin Coolidge traveled to Havana.

  • Published in Specials
Subscribe to this RSS feed