Obama, Castro rush to conclude deals
CUBAN President Raul Castro and US President Barack Obama are rushing to finish negotiations on a diverse set of bilateral agreements this week, less than 48 hours before US President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in.
The first agreement – co-operation on air and maritime search and rescue operations in the Florida Straits – was signed on Wednesday.
“Our country, in accordance with its humanist principles, ascribes special importance and interest to establishing collaborative bilateral and multilateral ties in the sphere of aeronautical and maritime search and rescue services,” Cuba’s Ministry of Transport said.
Two others are still on the table: establishing territorial limits in disputed Gulf of Mexico waters and determining procedures for the joint handling of international health issues. Both are expected to be finalised before the end of the week, diplomatic sources said.
The rush is likely a result of Trump’s statements on Cuba and those of his cabinet picks.
The incoming Republican Party president told supporters at a rally in March last year that he plans to reverse Obama’s foreign policy reforms on Cuba “unless the Castro regime meets our demands”.
During the same speech, he claimed “everything is in Cuba’s favour”, despite the fact that the US refuses to return the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and end its decades-long embargo on the island.
The views of Trump’s cabinet picks echo those of the president-elect. His transition team includes a number of Cuban-Americans, like Mauricio Claver-Carone, who oppose rapprochement with Havana and support a hegemonic policy toward Havana. In addition, Vice-President-elect Mike Pence promised Cuban-Americans while campaigning in Miami: “When Donald Trump is president of the United States, we will repeal Obama’s executive orders on Cuba.”
While it remains unclear what specific actions the incoming Trump administration will take on bilateral relations with Cuba, the Havana government remains clear on its commitment to reconciliation and co-operation with the US. Telesur