HAVANA._ A strange cocktail of hope and uncertainty abounds globally about what the future might hold in store for Cuba–U.S. relations, following announcements last December 17 by both governments of their decision to restore diplomatic relations.
Some people caution that this new atmosphere may prove untrustworthy in the historical context of punitive actions, including threats and the use of force by the U.S. government against Cuba, over many years.
Others, who may be somewhat overoptimistic, think the opposite to be true and that all such acts are coming to an end. They believe, among other things, that there is no further need to struggle against the economic, commercial and financial blockade that the U.S. has maintained against Cuba for more than five decades.
Indeed, U.S. president Barack Obama himself has said it is time to put and end to those measures and reiterated this point in his State of the Union address last January 20 when he asked members of Congress to join him in this nascent Cuban policy. The president said that the United States is abandoning an obsolete policy that has not worked in 50 years.
Even though the head of the White House has the power to significantly reduce general restrictive bilateral measures, the laws that codify the blockade must be repealed by Congress. Many congress members who have traveled to Cuba in recent weeks have expressed the view that the time to do away with this measure is upon us.
Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrat minority in the House of Representative, and 8 of her colleagues who were in Havana from February 17 to 19 are among those who share that view. The group was made up of Elliot Engel from New York, Rosa De Lauro (Connecticut), Collin Peterson (Minnesota), Anna Eshoo (California), Nydia Velaquez (New York), Jim McGovern (Massachusetts), Steve Israel (New York), and David Cicilline, from Rhode Island. While recognizing along with her colleagues that there was still plenty to be done, Pelosi said that there was strong Congressional bi-partisan support for the lifting of the blockade.
McGovern, for example, said that the fundamental problem was that there was a republican majority in both Congress and the Senate reluctant to allocate time to a debate on the subject despite the degree of support that proposals to eliminate these unilateral restrictions enjoys. Democratic senators Claire McCaskill, Amy Klobuchar and Mark Warner, who also visited Cuba, said that they supported the lifting of the blockade.
Warner acknowledged that Cuba was facing many challenges to the normalization of ties with the U.S; one of the greatest being that Washington has the Caribbean Island on a list of nations that allegedly sponsor terrorism. He recalled that U.S. federal agencies are undertaking a study to determine if Cuba should be removed from the list –described as unilateral and spurious by Cuban authorities– but noted that he could not say when this process is likely to conclude.
A renewed interest demonstrated by these and many other U.S. legislators is consistent with increasing support within the American public for civilized relations with Cuba.
According to recent polls, more than 60 percent of U.S. citizens would like Congress to lift the blockade. In addition, almost all the legislators who have been to Cuba recently are in favor of Cuba’s removal from the aforementioned list since such classification makes advances in bilateral affairs difficult. For this reason, it would be counter-productive for Cuba’s friends to now abandon their resistance to the blockade, which has been rejected for decades by the U.N. General Assembly.
To such calls, the need for the U.S. to return the territory that the Guantanamo Naval Base occupies must be added as that situation goes against the sovereign will of the Cuban government and its people.
By Roberto Garcia, The Havana Reporter (p. 6)
March 12, 2015