Caribbean nations urge US to lift 'senseless' Cuba embargo

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Georgetown (Guyana) (AFP) - Caribbean leaders urged the United States to lift its 54-year-old "senseless" embargo against Communist-ruled Cuba on Sunday as they convened in Havana for a regional summit.


The summit -- bringing together the 15 CARICOM member states and Cuba -- aims to increase trade and cooperation within the group and with Cuba.

"We continue to stand with Cuba on the United States embargo against Cuba," said Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who chairs CARICOM.

"I call on President (Barack) Obama to lift that senseless, that senseless embargo now," he added at a welcoming ceremony at the airport.

A leaders summit takes place on Monday, preceded by talks between foreign ministers Sunday.

The meeting, along with Cuba's invitation to the Summit of the Americas in Panama in April, signals "the full integration of Cuba into the Western Hemisphere," said Trinidad and Tobago Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran.

The United States and Cuba have lacked full diplomatic relations since 1961. In 1962, Washington imposed an economic embargo on the island, the only Communist-run country in the Americas.

The United States, which is also invited to the April summit, said it was not worried about Cuba's participation.

"I think what we're focused on is less on who's invited and more on what's discussed," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

She has said that in Panama, Washington would concentrate on shared commitments to the collective defense of democracy and human rights.

Caribbean nations urge US to lift 'senseless' Cuba embargo - Yahoo News
 

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Cuba is a beautiful country with designative lifestyle. I spent two weeks over there last summer and I really enjoyed it. Cuba need to cooperate with China and Russia, she doesn't need the US in a any form or shape.
 

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U.S., Cuba restore ties after 50 years






(Reuters) - The United States and Cuba agreed on Wednesday to restore diplomatic ties that Washington severed more than 50 years ago, and President Barack Obama called for an end to the long economic embargo against its old Cold War enemy.

After 18 months of secret talks, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in a phone call on Tuesday on a breakthrough prisoner exchange, the opening of embassies in each other's countries, and an easing of some restrictions on commerce.

The two leaders made the announcement in simultaneous televised speeches. The Vatican and Canada facilitated the deal.

Obama's call for an end to the economic embargo drew resistance from Republicans who will control both houses of Congress from January and who oppose normal relations with the communist-run island.

Obama said he was ending what he called a rigid and outdated policy of isolating Cuba that had failed to achieve change on the island.

His administration's policy shift includes an opening to more commerce in some areas, allowing use of U.S. credit and debit cards, increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cubans and allowing export of telecommunications devices and services.




RESTRICTIONS REMAIN

Travel restrictions that make it hard for most Americans to visit will be eased, but the door will not yet be open for broad U.S. tourism on the Caribbean island.

His announcement also will not end the U.S. trade embargo that has been in force for more than 50 years. That is codified in legislation and needs congressional approval. Obama said he would seek that approval but will likely face a struggle.

Obama said the opening was made possible by Havana's release of American Alan Gross, 65, who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years. Gross' case had been a major obstacle to improving relations.

Cuba is also releasing an intelligence agent who spied for the United States and was held for nearly 20 years, and the United States in return freed three Cuban intelligence agents held in the United States.

Cuba and the United States have been ideological foes since soon after the 1959 revolution that brought Raul Castro's older brother, Fidel Castro, to power. Washington broke diplomatic relations with Havana in 1961 as Cuba steered a leftist course that turned it into a close ally of the former Soviet Union on the island, which lies just 90 miles (140 km) south of Florida.

The hostilities were punctuated by crises over spies, refugees and the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962 that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. After the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Washington was increasingly alone in its efforts to squeeze Cuba. Raul Castro, who took over from Fidel Castro when his brother retired in 2008, has maintained a one-party political system.



CRITICS CHALLENGE OBAMA

Obama said Cuba still needed to enact economic reforms and uphold human rights among other changes, but he said it was time for a new approach.

Americans are largely open to establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll of more than 31,000 adults conducted between July and October. Around one-fifth of those surveyed said they opposed such a move, while 43 percent said the United States should restore relations with Cuba and around 37 percent said they were unsure.

Critics said Cuba should not be rewarded, having yet to change, and the path to completely normal ties is strewn with obstacles, in particular lifting the embargo that the White House said Obama would like to see dismantled by the time he leaves office in 2017.

Although a growing number of U.S. lawmakers favor more normal ties, those lawmakers are still mostly Democrats, and after big midterm election gains in November, Republicans will control both houses of Congress in the new year.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban American Republican, will be incoming chair of a key Senate Foreign Relations panel and said he was committed to doing all he could to "unravel" the plan. Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both set to hold senior foreign policy positions, said the policy shift reflected "America and the values it stands for in retreat and decline."

Whatever the criticism at home, Obama's move was made with the political liberty of a president who, midway through his second term, no longer faces an electorate.



CUBAN AMERICANS SPLIT

News of the changes rippled fast through the 1.5 million-strong Cuban American community in the United States, hailed by some who are keen to see closer ties with the island and condemned by others.

Older Cubans who left the island soon after the revolution have remained opposed to ties with either Castro brother in power. Younger Cubans, who left more recently or were born in the United States, have shown more interest in warmer relations.

"It's amazing," said Hugo Cancio, who arrived in Miami in the 1980 Mariel boatlift and runs a magazine with offices in Miami and Havana. "This is a new beginning, a dream come true for the 11.2 million Cubans in Cuba, and I think it will provoke a change of mentality here too in this community."

In Havana, stunned Cubans celebrated the news, although some were skeptical that the long years of animosity really would end. In one student demonstration on a busy Havana street corner, about 100 people shut off traffic while motorists honked their horns. Neighbors peered out from their balconies, joining in the cheers.

"I have waited for this day since I can remember," said taxi driver Jorge Reymond, wiping away tears.



GROSS CASE

Obama said the Gross case had stalled his ambitions to try to reset relations with Havana, calling it a "major obstacle." Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, played an active role in pressing for his release from Cuba, where a sizable part of the population is Roman Catholic.

Cuba arrested Gross on Dec. 3, 2009, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison for importing banned technology and trying to establish clandestine Internet service for Cuban Jews. Gross had been working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Gross's lawyer and family have described him as mentally vanquished, gaunt, hobbling and missing five teeth. Speaking to reporters after arriving in the United States, Gross thanked Obama for all he had done to secure his release and said he did not blame the Cuban people for his ordeal.

His case raised alarm about USAID's practice of hiring private citizens to carry out secretive assignments in hostile places. Cuba considers USAID another instrument of continual U.S. harassment dating back to 1959.

The three Cuban intelligence agents, jailed since 1998, are Gerardo Hernandez, 49, Antonio Guerrero, 56, and Ramon Labañino, 51. Two others had been released before on completing their sentences - Rene Gonzalez, 58, and Fernando Gonzalez, 51. The three arrived in Cuba on Wednesday, Castro said.

Despite their decades of animosity, the two countries have long been engaged on a host of issues such as immigration, drug interdiction and oil-spill mitigation.

U.S., Cuba restore ties after 50 years| Reuters
 
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Cuba is a beautiful country with designative lifestyle. I spent two weeks over there last summer and I really enjoyed it. Cuba need to cooperate with China and Russia, she doesn't need the US in a any form or shape.
I agree, The US can and does corrupt the culture of countries all over the world. I would like to see Cuba do well without the need of the US. The people that I have meet from Cuba say life is pretty simple there. They may not have much money but they have plenty of food.
 
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I definitely agree with the US, we really are focusing more on who's being invited and why its so much news, than really what is going to be talked about. The embargo was placed so many years ago when American and Cuba were in completely different places in their countries lives, and they had different rulers with different tactics at the time. I definitely think that they should really just remove the embargo and try, to come together as one. I think Panama is a great way for them to discuss the real issues.
 
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This is a small step of getting some economic growth from both sides. I hope this will be a fast process of getting jobs in both countries.
 
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Very interesting article. At least some improvement I guess is happening so far without having to involves missiles and canyons and whatnot. This makes it promising when it comes to the economy indeed.
 
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I definitely agree that the two countries should bury the hatchet. Both Cuba and America are beautiful countries with plenty to offer to each other. I'm glad that improvement is being made, and hopefully it will soon be made possible for Cubans so migrate to America and vice versa. Like the article said, it is mostly the older Cubans and Americans who don't want anything to do with the other. Us newer generations are definitely more open and willing, so why hold onto old beef?
 
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That embargo was enacted back in the 60s. It was brought about during the height of the Cold War. Last I checked, the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union was dissolved. Let the past go, let's move forward and maybe we could build some positive relations with Cuba. It will be a difficult process because you've had the same ruler in power for so many years and the people in that country have become accustomed to that way of life.

I understand Fidel is no longer in power but the mindset that he established in that country may take longer to break than it did to create.
 

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