Author: Laura Bécquer Paseiro | email@example.com
The directive announced by Obama recognizes the role of the island in progress made thus far and further consolidates the changes made to date, while encouraging increased exchanges between the two peoples and countries.
The document reflects the feelings of broad sectors in the northern nation regarding what is appropriate to the current process and contains questions that can serve as a reference, as Josefina Vidal, director general for the United States at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, noted in Havana.
Speaking to the press, Vidal explained that the presidential policy directive includes elements that could be useful should a new U.S. administration decide to continue the process of improving relations.
The announcement by Obama was accompanied by news of further modifications made by the Departments of Treasury and Commerce to certain blockade regulations, which represent a continuation of those adopted on other occasions.
These measures, just as those previously taken, are very limited, Vidal stressed, reiterating that the economic, financial and commercial blockade persists.
In this regard, she provided the example of the continued restrictions on Cuban exports to the U.S., especially in the state sector. The only exception is that of pharmaceuticals, which have now been authorized for sale to the United States.
The diplomat also noted that in the financial sphere, the ban on Cuban banks opening correspondent accounts in U.S. banks remains, despite the authorization of the use of the dollar in transactions with the island.
Vidal stressed that the measures continue to benefit the U.S. more than Cuba.
Likewise, the green light was given for the development of joint medical research projects, for commercial and non-commercial purposes, between people and institutions of both countries; as well as the opening of bank accounts in Cuba by persons and entities linked with these activities.
However, joint ventures for the development and marketing of products in this industry are still banned.
Another measure adopted was the elimination of the import limit of up to 400 dollars of Cuban goods acquired either on the island or in third countries (100 for rum and cigars) for personal use placed on U.S. citizens. However, Cuba remains unable to sell these products in the U.S. market.
The scope and practical application of these measures are conditioned by various interests in the United States, despite the political will shown by the Obama administration.
The same day National Security Adviser, Susan E. Rice, spoke at the Woodrow Center, which, as Vidal noted, revealed that the U.S. government has not abandoned certain former policies with regard to the island.
The diplomat stressed that as part of this process of building a new type of relationship with the United States, the Cuban side has insisted that issues such as sovereignty or the Cuban political system are not on the negotiating table.
Speeches such as that made by Rice, she added, are a clear example that the United States does not hide its goal of promoting changes in the Cuban political, economic and social system; nor has the intention to implement interventionist programs ceased.
HUMAN RIGHTS: CIVILIZED RELATIONS DESPITE PROFOUND DIFFERENCES
October 14 also saw the Second Human Rights Dialogue between Cuba and the United States, during which the island reaffirmed its willingness to maintain civilized relations with the U.S. in a framework of equality, respect and reciprocity, despite the profound differences as to concepts and the exercise of human rights, reported the Deputy Director General of Multilateral Affairs and International Law of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta.
Speaking at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Havana, the diplomat, who headed the Cuban delegation to the meeting, told reporters that the dialogue took place in a professional and respectful environment.
He also noted that the Cuban side defended issues such as the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, stressing that civil and political rights should be addressed on an equal footing with economic, social and cultural rights.
During the dialogue, which continues on from that held in March 2015, following a proposal from Cuba, the need to develop exchanges of this kind, with full respect for sovereign equality, independence and non-interference in internal affairs, was reiterated.
Pedroso emphasized that the Cuban delegation explained the reality of the country in terms of achievements in the promotion and protection of human rights, not only for the benefit of the Cuban people, but also many other nations.
He noted that an example of the island’s commitment to the protection of human rights is the high number of international instruments in this field to which Cuba is a signatory — 44 of the recognized 61 —; while the United States has signed just 18.
According to Pedroso, the Cuban delegation expressed to its U.S. counterpart — led on this occasion by Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Tomasz Malinowski — concerns regarding the respect and guarantee of human rights in the U.S., referring to police brutality, particularly against African Americans, insecurity and increased firearm-related deaths.
Other issues such as discrimination against immigrants were also addressed by the Cuban delegation.
In addition, acts of torture in detention centers and secret prisons and extrajudicial executions as part of the so-called fight against terrorism were also highlighted as examples of human rights violations committed by Washington in other parts of the world.
In this regard, Pedroso noted that Cuba particularly criticized the U.S. detention center located in the illegally occupied territory of Guantánamo and the torture and serious human rights violations committed there.
The delegation thus referred to the double standards and selectivity that prevail in the U.S. discourse on this subject.
During the exchange, it was stressed that the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba for more than 50 years is a flagrant, massive and systematic violation of human rights.
Pedroso concluded by reiterating that if the U.S. government really wants to promote policies to help Cubans, it is imperative that it remove blockade restrictions to contribute to decisively dismantling this unjust policy.