Friday, May 13, 2016

Blockade Must End If Cuba-U.S. Relations Are to Advance
Ministry of Foreign Relations announces Cuba-U.S. Bilateral Commission to meet in Havana May 16

Sergio Alejandro Gómez |
May 13, 2016 09:05:18

Photo: Ismael Francisco
While Cuba and the United States have made important progress over the last 17 months, economic and commercial relations continue to be hampered by the blockade which remains in full force despite modifications, the Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex) reported yesterday, May 12, in a press conference.

Gustavo Machín - the Ministry's deputy director for the U.S. - announced that set to take place in Havana, this coming May 16, is the third meeting of the Cuba-U.S. Bilateral Commission, created in August of 2015 to organize the development of ties following the reestablishment of diplomatic relations.

During this meeting, agreements reached at the last gathering, held in Washington in November, will be reviewed, as well as progress made since the Commission's first meeting, September 11, 2015, Machín reported.

He noted that concrete progress has been made in a variety of areas, but that advances will be difficult in economic relations, as long as the blockade remains in effect, with its multiple prohibitions on Cuban exports and most U.S. exports.

He emphasized that despite the most recent modifications to the blockade announced by President Obama, banking relations and transactions in dollars have yet to be normalized.

"It's not about announcing measures, if they are not accompanied by a policy statement or legal document which guarantees banks that they will not be sanctioned for having ties with Cuba," Machín said, "A great deal of fear still exists in international banking," adding that Obama has sufficient executive authority to continue dismantling the aggressive blockade policy.

He recalled the most important successes thus far in the commercial arena, which include agreements between the Cuban Telecommunications Enterprise (Etecsa) and three U.S. companies, as well as contracts with Starwood Hotels, and the Carnival cruise line.

Over the last 17 months a total of nine agreements have been signed, addressing cooperation in areas such as the environment, postal service, navigation security, agriculture, and travel between the two countries, Machin reported,

He announced that the Cuban delegation to the May 16 meeting will be led by Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Minrex director general for the United States, and State Department Counselor Kristie Kenney for the U.S.

Machín reiterated that progress toward normalization of relations requires ending the blockade: returning territory illegally occupied by the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánao; and ending subversive programs which violate Cuba's sovereignty.

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