By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 2 – Amnesty International came out Wednesday with a report recommending to US President Barack Obama that he take steps towards dismantling the half-century US economic blockade on Cuba.
Amnesty, which has been critical of some aspects of Cuba’s political system, said “This is the perfect opportunity for President Obama to distance himself from the failed policies of the past and to send a strong message to the U.S. Congress on the need to end the embargo.”
Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, called the embargo -termed a blockade by Cuba- immoral. She said, “”It’s preventing millions of Cubans from benefiting from vital medicines and medical equipment essential for their health.”
“Although responsibility for providing adequate health care lies primarily with the Cuban authorities, governments imposing sanctions such as embargoes need to pay special attention to the impact they can have on the targeted country’s population,” said Irene Khan.
Trading with the Enemy Act Review
The call made by the human rights organization comes a few days before the expiration of the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act. On September 14, President Obama should decide whether to extend or end the application of that legislation.
During his election campaign Obama spoke of improving relations with Cuba. For it’s part the government of Raul Castro has said it is willing to talk with the US administration on any and all subjects as long as it is in a framework of mutual respect and without pre-conditions. Castro has also rejected any unilateral political concessions noting that the hostile policies have emanated from Washington.
Earlier this year when members of the Obama administration told Cuba it should release what the US considers political prisoners, the Cuban president hinted at his willingness to engage in a prisoner swap for the Cuban Five, imprisoned in the US for nearly 11 years for infiltrating terrorist organizations based in Miami with a long history of attacks against Cuba and its interests.
Obama did sign an order back in April making it easier for Cuban Americans to visit the island and send money to relatives; however he has thus far maintained the economic blockade on Cuba as well as the travel ban that keeps ordinary US citizens from visiting the island under threat of heavy fines. Cuba is the only country currently off bounds for Americans.
So far talks have taken place on migration issues and a first round on the possibility of reestablishing direct mail service between the two countries is reportedly forthcoming in mid September.