United States and Cuba Seek Improved Relations, But. . .

The United States and Cuba are interested in improving relations but there are certain issues that remain to be ironed out. For the moment, not much seems to be happening, but the US claims to be “sending signals” [no news here]. According to the Miami Herald, in an online forum on Hispanic issues, President Barack Obama said that “What we’ve tried to do is send a signal that we are open to a new relationship with Cuba.” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez has also said that Cuba wants to “reiterate the proposal of beginning a dialogue aimed at solving bilateral problems.” Here are some of the points to be resolved:

For the Cubans, the U.S. trade embargo against the island and the release of the “Cuban Five,” a group of Cuban agents convicted of spying in the United States, are major points. [Foreign Minister Bruno] Rodríguez called on Obama to set the
“Cuban Five” free “as an act of justice or a humanitarian gesture.” However, Obama claims that he has not seen “the kind of genuine spirit of transformation inside of Cuba that would justify us eliminating the embargo.”

Despite exceptions to the embargo that allow the export of U.S. agricultural products, foodstuffs and some other products and the Obama administration’s shift that allows most Cuban-Americans to travel to the island at will, Rodríguez valued the negative impact of the five-decades-old embargo at $975 billion. In his U.N. remarks Monday, Rodríguez said he was calculating that value according to present world gold prices, which have been at historically high levels this year.

[Meanwhile . . . ] Obama said the United States is open to a new relationship “if the Cuban government starts taking the proper steps to open up its own country and… provide the space and respect for human rights that would allow the Cuban people to determine their own destiny.”

[. . . ] “The things that each side is seeking are unlikely to happen,” said Phil Peters, a veteran Cuba watcher at the Lexington Institute. “Now that we’re in the campaign season, my belief is that absent some really significant changes in Cuba, the administration is going to let it [Cuba policy] sit.”

Neither Obama nor Rodríguez made mention of the case of jailed American Alan Gross, a subcontractor who was convicted of crimes related to his distribution of satellite telephone equipment in Cuba and sentenced to 15 years. But Peters said that although Rodríguez’s comments on humanitarian issues were “ambiguous,” it was clear he was talking about Gross.

For original article, see http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/09/28/2430033/us-cuba-seek-improved-relations.html

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