Caribbean lead­ers wel­come new chap­ter in US-Cuba re­la­tions

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

By Peter Richards CMC

Caribbean Com­mu­nity (CARICOM) lead­ers on Wed­nes­day wel­comed the new chap­ter in diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween the United States and Cuba with St. Vincent and the Gre­nadines Prime Min­is­ter Dr. Ralph Gon­salves de­scrib­ing the event as one “’of earth shat­ter­ing proportions”.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama an­nounced the reestab­lish­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions as well as an eas­ing in eco­nomic and travel re­stric­tions on Cuba, declar­ing an end to Amer­ica’s “out­dated ap­proach” to the com­mu­nist is­land in a his­toric shift that aims to bring an end to a half-cen­tury of Cold War en­mity.

Obama and the Cuban leader, Raul Castro, made si­mul­ta­ne­ous an­nounce­ments in their re­spec­tive cap­i­tals an­nounc­ing the moves to nor­malise the diplo­matic re­la­tions that were bro­ken after Fidel Castro es­tab­lished the first com­mu­nist state in the Western hemi­sphere after lead­ing an over­throw of the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship of Ful­gen­cio Batista in 1959.

Wash­ing­ton im­posed a trade and eco­nomic em­bargo on the is­land fol­low­ing the move by Castro and Caribbean gov­ern­ments joined sev­eral in­ter­na­tional coun­tries in de­nounc­ing the move.

Obama said Wash­ing­ton will also open an em­bassy in Ha­vana in the com­ing months and the moves on Wed­nes­day were part of a deal that saw the re­lease of Amer­i­can Alan Gross by Cuba and the re­lease of three Cubans jailed in Florida for spy­ing.

Obama hailed the move as the “most sig­nif­i­cant changes in US pol­icy to­wards Cuba in 50 years”.

Prime Min­is­ter Gon­salves, who over the years has de­vel­oped close ties with both Venezuela and Cuba, said while there were still sev­eral is­sues still be to ironed out, “many of the things which Pres­i­dent Obama has spo­ken about … are inside the CUBA-CARICOM com­mu­niqué of last week and the ALBA sum­mit of Sun­day”. He said he had longed for the day when the frac­tur­ing of the Western hemi­sphere would be healed and that it ap­pears that there is a dra­matic com­mence­ment of that heal­ing.

“This is a day of great re­joic­ing,” Gon­salves said, adding that he was now look­ing for­ward to the Sum­mit of the Amer­i­cas in Panama where both Cuba and the United States would be rep­re­sented by their heads of state.

“It will be won­der­ful for us to be at the Sum­mit of the Amer­i­cas and it is almost too good to be­lieve it is true to see the Pres­i­dent of the United States and the Pres­i­dent of Cuba sit­ting down in the hemi­spheric fam­ily like that ... it is a day in which I look for­ward to and I hope the good Lord keeps me to see that sit­u­a­tion,” Gon­salves told Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day.

He sought an early ad­journ­ment of Par­lia­ment as he said Kingstown had to be kept abreast of the “event of earth shak­ing proportions”. Op­po­si­tion Leader Arn­him Eus­tace said he too was look­ing for­ward to “a deep­en­ing of that re­la­tion­ship”.

St. Kitts-Ne­vis Prime Min­is­ter, Dr. Den­zil Dou­glas, also wel­comed the an­nounce­ment of im­proved re­la­tions be­tween Cuba and the United States say­ing Bas­seterre joined with gov­ern­ments the world over in long as­sert­ing “that the half­cen­tury old pol­icy of the United States to­ward Cuba ad­vanced the in­ter­ests of nei­ther the United States nor those of the Cuban peo­ple.

“The decision of the United States to no longer be the only coun­try on earth ded­i­cated to the iso­la­tion of Cuba is there­fore a most wel­come de­vel­op­ment in the eyes of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. It re­flects the de­ter­mi­na­tion of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to stead­fastly and metic­u­lously re-ex­am­ine and re-cast poli­cies that do not work, and to do so in the in­ter­est of ad­vanc­ing global peace and sta­bil­ity. For this, Pres­i­dent Obama de­serves great praise.”

Prime Min­is­ter Dou­glas said that his twin is­land Fed­er­a­tion had ben­e­fit­ted from many years of con­struc­tive bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with Cuba, “and we look for­ward to wit­ness­ing the ben­e­fits that are sure to ac­crue to the Gov­ern­ments and peo­ples of both the United States and Cuba as a re­sult of this his­toric decision”.

Gre­nada’s Prime Min­is­ter, Dr. Keith Mitchell, said he was elated at the de­vel­op­ment. “To­day is a his­toric day in the life of the Cuban peo­ple. To­day, the United States has an­swered the call of hu­man­ity. To­day, the United States has fi­nally heard what Caribbean lead­ers have al­ways said, and what has been proven: their decades’ long pol­icy of iso­la­tion­ism of Cuba has not worked. It is way past time to re­move the em­bargo. It is the pro­gres­sive, wise and right thing to do.

“The mod­ern day re­al­i­ties of glob­al­iza­tion de­mand that this be done. Cuba, too, un­der­stands that they need to move with the times,” Mitchell said, re­call­ing his re­marks at the Bo­li­var­ian Al­liance of the Amer­i­cas (ALBA) sum­mit in Cuba, when he re­it­er­ated the re­gion’s col­lec­tive grat­i­tude to Cuba for its con­tri­bu­tion to re­gional de­vel­op­ment, and called for the United States to re­move the more than five decades old em­bargo on Cuba.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Min­is­ter, Kamla Per­sadBisses­sar, said she wel­comed the re­sump­tion of diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween the United States and Cuba and that Port of Spain had over the years called for an end to the trade em­bargo.

In a state­ment she re­called her ad­dress to the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly in Septem­ber where she noted that “on the point of a re­vi­talised global part­ner­ship in support of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, I would wish to strongly re­it­er­ate the support of Trinidad and Tobago for an end to the eco­nomic em­bargo against Cuba.”

She said, “To­day’s an­nounce­ment by Pres­i­dent Obama and Pres­i­dent Castro is a huge leap in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion. So­cially, eco­nom­i­cally, ge­o­graph­i­cally, we are all joined in a common mis­sion of a bet­ter and more se­cure life for our peo­ple.

“After almost half a cen­tury, two very close neigh­bours have started talk­ing again and we can ex­pect a great deal of ben­e­fit to re­dound to the peo­ple of both na­tions and in­deed to the en­tire re­gion,” Prime Min­is­ter Per­sadBisses­sar added.

The gov­ern­ment of Guyana said it too wel­comed the decision and views this as a pro­gres­sive step to­wards the de­vel­op­ment of con­struc­tive re­la­tions be­tween the United States of Amer­ica and Cuba which will re­dound to the ben­e­fit of th­ese two coun­tries and the hemi­sphere as whole.

“The Gov­ern­ment wishes to con­grat­u­late Pres­i­dent Obama on this brave and just decision and hopes that th­ese ac­tions will lead to an early end to the eco­nomic, com­mer­cial and fi­nan­cial block­ade which the United States of Amer­ica has pur­sued for the last 54 years against the Cuban peo­ple. It is our hope that the mea­sures an­nounced will be im­ple­mented with­out any hin­drance.

“We con­grat­u­late and salute Pres­i­dent Raul Castro on the head­ways made which were no doubt oc­ca­sioned by his con­tin­ued will­ing­ness to di­a­logue with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

“We also wish to ac­knowl­edge the crit­i­cal role played by Pope Fran­cis and the Vatican and the Gov­ern­ment of Canada in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the dis­cus­sions be­tween the United States of Amer­ica and Cuba which have re­sulted in this promis­ing end,” the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs said in a state­ment.

In a state­ment, the Guyan­abased Caribbean Com­mu­nity (CARICOM) Sec­re­tariat said it wel­comed the thaw­ing of re­la­tions be­tween the United States and Cuba and the move to­wards the re-es­tab­lish­ment of diplo­matic ties.

“CARICOM has long been an ad­vo­cate for the nor­mal­i­sa­tion of th­ese re­la­tions and has raised the is­sue re­peat­edly in its in­ter­ac­tion with both par­ties,” CARICOM Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ir­win La Rocque said.

“To­day’s an­nounce­ment sig­nals the be­gin­ning of a new era in our hemi­sphere and demon­strates the value of di­a­logue as a means of set­tling dif­fer­ences. The Com­mu­nity com­mends pres­i­dents Obama and Castro for their bold ini­tia­tive. Both Cuba and the United Sates have played ma­jor roles in as­sist­ing the de­vel­op­ment ef­forts of our mem­ber states and we look for­ward to work­ing to­gether with them as they move for­ward in build­ing their re­la­tion­ship.” But he said while CARICOM wel­comes this pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment, “the Com­mu­nity looks for­ward to fur­ther steps be­ing taken with des­patch to­wards the lifting of the eco­nomic, trade and fi­nan­cial em­bargo”.

In his ad­dress, Pres­i­dent Obama an­nounced mea­sures that he said would end an “out­dated ap­proach that for decades has failed to ad­vance our in­ter­ests”.

The plans set out by Wash­ing­ton in­clude re­view­ing the des­ig­na­tion of Cuba as a state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism, eas­ing a travel ban for US cit­i­zens, eas­ing fi­nan­cial re­stric­tions, and in­creas­ing telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions links and ef­forts to lift the 54-year-old trade em­bargo.

Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS), José Miguel In­sulza, in wel­com­ing the new ini­tia­tive con­grat­u­lated Pres­i­dent Obama “for hav­ing taken th­ese his­toric steps, as nec­es­sary as they are coura­geous, to re­store diplo­matic re­la­tions bro­ken off in 1961.

“This is a decision of great vi­sion on both sides be­cause this con­flict, which has sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions for cit­i­zens of both coun­tries, had stag­nated po­lit­i­cally for too long,” he said.

The Sec­re­tary Gen­eral said, “The mea­sures an­nounced to­day open a path to nor­mal­iza­tion from which there is no re­turn,” and asked the United States Congress to “take the nec­es­sary leg­isla­tive mea­sures to lift the em­bargo against Cuba which re­mains in force.

“Pres­i­dent Obama has been clear about the need to change a pol­icy that pro­duced nei­ther ben­e­fits nor re­sults for 50 years, and only com­pli­cated the lives of mil­lions of cit­i­zens. We hope that Congress un­der­stands this as well.”

The head of the OAS ex­pressed his hap­pi­ness at the re­lease of Alan Gross, as well as Ger­ardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and An­to­nio Guer­rero, say­ing that their im­pris­on­ment “was the prod­uct of a past that should not re­turn.”

Sec­re­tary Gen­eral In­sulza also praised “the role of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in fa­cil­i­tat­ing talks be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Ha­vana” and urged both gov­ern­ments “to con­tinue to rely on their neigh­bours and friends to con­tinue reach­ing agree­ments lead­ing to full nor­mal­iza­tion of con­tacts be­tween two key coun­tries of th­ese, our Amer­i­cas”.

Cuban Pres­i­dent Raúl Castro in­tro­duces him­self to his U.S. coun­ter­part, Barack Obama, in South Africa in De­cem­ber, 2013. The two men ac­tu­ally shake hands.

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