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Vol. 79/No. 6      February 23, 2015

(front page)
‘Cuba’s sovereignty
not up for negotiation’

“The United States has not altered its strategic objectives toward Cuba,” Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, head of Cuba’s North American Bureau of the Foreign Ministry and chief delegate in talks with U.S. government representatives on steps toward diplomatic relations, said in a Cuban television interview Feb. 2. “What has changed are the forms, the tactics.”

“And we’re not going to negotiate issues of a domestic nature, of Cuban sovereignty, in exchange for lifting the blockade,” she said.

A second round of talks between Cuban and U.S. representatives is scheduled for later in February. The talks are the result of an agreement announced simultaneously by U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro Dec. 17 under which Cuba released two U.S. agents and Washington released the three remaining members of the Cuban Five after 16 years in U.S. prisons for defending the Cuban Revolution.

Washington’s punishing 54-year embargo against Cuba has caused decades of economic isolation and difficulties, exacerbated after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, which had been Cuba’s main trading partner. Washington now seeks to take advantage of the toll wrought on Cuban workers and farmers by the embargo to interfere more directly in social relations on the island.

Vidal’s television interview came after both Fidel and Raúl Castro had made it clear there will be no progress toward normalizing relations until Washington lifts its embargo; returns Guantánamo, home of the U.S. naval base, back to Cuba; and respects Cuba’s sovereignty.

“U.S. government spokespeople have been very clear in specifying that they are now changing their methods but not their policy objectives and insist on continuing to intervene in our internal affairs, which we are not going to accept,” said Raúl Castro in a Jan. 28 speech to the Third Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

Cristina Escobar, the TV interviewer, noted that U.S. diplomats and the media talk as if “Cuba has to do things to please the interests of the United States, so as to have the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations with them.”

“Relations between Cuba and the United States have been historically asymmetrical,” Vidal replied.

“There are a lot more things to dismantle on the part of the United States than on the part of Cuba,” she said, “because in Cuba we don’t have sanctions against U.S. businesses or citizens. Nor do we have occupied territory in the United States that we could trade for the occupied territory at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo.”

At a White House press briefing four days earlier, reporters asked Josh Earnest, Obama’s press secretary, “Is it the president’s intention when he finally does close the Guantánamo facility to give back the actual territory to Cuba?”

Earnest answered with an emphatic, “No.”

“We don’t have programs financed from Cuba aimed at influencing the situation inside the U.S.,” Vidal continued. “We don’t have especially designed illegal radio and television broadcasts from Cuba to the U.S.”

The U.S. government has insisted that when embassies are opened, their personnel should have freedom of movement, Vidal said, “but it is very important that the behavior of U.S. diplomats in Havana changes.”

Today, she said, “they encourage, organize, train, supply and finance elements inside our country who act against the interests of our state, against the interests of the Cuban government and people.”

“Our diplomats in Washington behave impeccably,” she said, “and would never take any kind of action that could be interpreted by the U.S. government as interfering in their internal affairs.”

“A solution to the economic difficulties that have affected us will not be found until the day the blockade is totally ended,” Vidal said when asked what she thought the outcome of the negotiations will be. “I think we’re being quite realistic in our approach and our appreciation of the circumstances, to try to advance as far as possible in the solution to these problems.”
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