Friday, January 21, 2011

Johana Tablada of MinRex analyzes the White House statement

Cuban official tells why Obama's easing of travel and cash restrictions is 'insufficient'

Excerpts from interview with Johana Tablada, deputy director of the North American Department of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, published Friday in Cubadebate and translated by Cuban Colada. (fot)The subject was a Jan. 16 statement by the Foreign Ministry downplaying Washington's Jan. 14 announcement of eased restrictions in travel and remittances.

Q.: Why does Cuba consider that these new measures do not constitute a substantial change in the relations between the island and the United States?

A.: We have to wait until the regulations are published with the interpretations of these measures, which for now are just a political announcement. Still, we believe they are limited.

It is true that they don't constitute a new turn of the screw in terms of the blockade, and that's why we said they are positive, but they concentrate on restoring certain categories of passengers who can travel to Cuba for specific purposes regarding educational, cultural, or religious issues.
From that standpoint, they are limited. Cuba continues to be the only country in the world to which Americans cannot travel freely, and American citizens continue to be the only people in the world who cannot travel freely to Cuba.

They are insufficient, too, because they do not address the fundamental aspects of the regime of sanctions against Cuba. The blockade remains the most sophisticated and all-encompassing system of sanctions imposed by any other country on any other country.

With regard to the blockade, there is no change. No changes are made in the regulations against Cuban assets, or in the financial hounding, or in the laws that bar vessels from other countries from coming to Cuba.

No changes are made either in the principal instruments of aggression against Cuba, such as the smear campaigns, the subversion or the funding for the dissents within the island.

There have always been certain groups interested in hindering any positive step in the bilateral relations with Cuba. These powerful sectors have found formulas to scare or intimidate the decision-makers. Often they distort reality, while, on the other hand, there is strong support for a change in U.S. policy.
These measures respond to a growing debate in different sectors: economic, academic, student, religious, agricultural. These debates call for a real change in policy toward Cuba.
Among the sectors that are asking for change, many opine that this is a positive step for Obama, but in reality it could go farther. President Obama has the prerogatives to go farther and American society is ready to lift the blockade and to lift the ban that prevents Americans from traveling to Cuba.

Q.: So, there is nothing new in these announcements?

A.: These measures were in force in the 1990s and the most wide-ranging were announced in 1999. Then, in 2003, Bush suspended them. That's why we say they are not new measures.
In any case, we consider them as a small step, thanks to the efforts of the groups and broad sectors that have called for a change in the policy. But we must not forget that this is part of the United States' attempt to find ways to achieve the same purposes of previous administrations by different means.

Comment to blog by John McAuliff

The only defenses a small country has to maintain its independence and sovereignty against a hegemonic big neighbor are its caution and its determination. That is as true for the neighbors of Russia and China as for the US.

Ms. Tablada is correct that the proof will be in the pudding. Had the announcement given all categories of purposeful travel a general license, we would know where we stand.
Now we wait to see whether OFAC serves as a facilitator to register and track people to people travel or as a cop to judge, intervene and delay.

The President set a very positive direction, but the language of the announcement was couched for ears in Miami not in Havana.

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John McAuliff
Fund for Reconciliation and Development

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