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Vol. 80/No. 30      August 15, 2016

(front page)

Cuban leader: ‘It’s up to US to dismantle its
hostile policies’

“Relations between Cuba and the U.S. have been asymmetric; therefore it is up to the U.S. to dismantle hostile unilateral policies,” said Josefina Vidal, who leads Cuba’s negotiating team with Washington. “Cuba doesn’t have any comparable policies.”

Vidal, director general for U.S. affairs at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations, spoke to the Cuban Communist Party’s daily Granma on the anniversary of the reopening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington on July 20 last year, some 54 years after the U.S. government unilaterally severed diplomatic relations with Havana.

Since the 1959 deep-going social revolution in Cuba, which brought a workers and farmers government to power, Washington has used sabotage, an attempted invasion, diplomatic isolation and an unprecedented economic embargo to try to overturn the rule of the working class and its allies.

Recognizing that more than 50 years of this course had failed to accomplish its aims, President Barack Obama—and a substantial majority in the ruling class he represents—decided it was time to try something else. Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced Dec. 17, 2014, the beginning of talks to restore diplomatic relations. Simultaneously, the last of the Cuban Five, revolutionaries imprisoned by Washington for over 16 years, were released and returned home to Cuba.

Vidal said achievements of talks since then include the removal of Cuba from the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism and the creation of the Cuba-U.S. Bilateral Commission. “It was important to have a mechanism of this type to address unresolved issues, cooperation in areas of mutual interest and talks on bilateral and multilateral matters,” she said. Ten such agreements have been signed and others are currently being negotiated related to drug trafficking, search and rescue, ocean oil-spill response and meteorology.

Embargo remains in force
But the bulk of Washington’s economic embargo still remains in force, she said. Imports from the U.S. to Cuba are severely restricted, exports from Cuba to the U.S. virtually impossible and banking relations have not been normalized. Cuba can still not make financial transfers, and the U.S. government continues to impose heavy fines on banks and foreign financial entities that do business there.

The Obama administration has imposed penalties totaling more than $14 billion, “a record amount in the history of the application of the blockade against our country,” Vidal said, “on U.S. and foreign entities for their legitimate associations with Cuba.” This continues to have “an intimidating effect on U.S. and international banks. Thus far, the U.S. government has failed to issue a political statement or legal document explaining to world banks that operations with Cuba are legitimate, and that they won’t be sanctioned.”

Washington’s aim is to find, support and build forces in Cuba that can be agents for the restoration of capitalism and open up for U.S. bosses to exploit working people. The U.S. government has approved measures it hopes will further this goal, such as restoring mail services, removal of caps on remittances and easing some restrictions on U.S. citizens visiting Cuba.

In June the U.S. Department of Transportation authorized six U.S. airlines to begin direct flights to Cuban cities outside Havana, and says it will soon approve flights to the capital. A U.S. cruise ship docked in Havana in early May for the first time in nearly 40 years.

During his visit to Cuba in March, Obama pressed for Google to play a big role in expanding the internet in Cuba. But to Washington’s chagrin, the Cuban government insists on its sovereign right to control this development.

In May Cuban officials said the Chinese telecom firm Huawei was “advanced in negotiations with a Cuban company” to expand operations on the island. Within a month, the U.S. Commerce Department issued a subpoena to Huawei to turn over all information regarding export or re-export of U.S. technology to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, according to the New York Times.

‘Return Guantánamo to Cuba’
“The return of the illegally occupied territory in Guantánamo, which is the only case in the world of perpetually and illegally occupying a military base, against the will of the government and people of the country where it is situated, is also important for Cuba,” Vidal said. “Just like the blockade, we have presented this issue in every meeting.” Other “permanent issues on Cuba’s agenda” include U.S. policies aimed at promoting emigration from Cuba outside normal channels, subversion programs and illegal radio and television broadcasts directed at the island, she said.

“Does pursuing a civilized relationship with Washington mean sacrificing the Revolution’s anti-imperialist aims?” asked Granma reporter Sergio Alejandro Gómez.

“Absolutely not,” said Vidal. Cuba will not renounce “its foreign policy, committed to the just causes of the world, the defense of people’s right to self-determination and support for sister nations,” such as Venezuela, she said.

Gómez asked whether a normalization of relations with Washington is even possible. Even if all the pending issues were to be resolved, including lifting the embargo and returning Guantánamo, Vidal said, the U.S. “would also have to give up its historic ambition to decide and control Cuba’s destiny, otherwise, normal relations will not be possible.”
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