Mixed U.S. Signals on Cuba

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES, March 29 — Three weeks before the 5th Americas Summit in Trinidad and Tobago on April 17-19, the Obama administration continues to dodge the possibility of significant change in the US policy on Cuba, based on an economic blockade and travel ban.

Bills continue in Congressional committees that would end the prohibition the US enforces on its citizens wishing to travel to Cuba, as well as others to chip away at trade restrictions.

However, Vice President Joseph Biden, in Chile for a governance conference, tried to belittle the importance of Cuba in the hemisphere, telling the press Saturday that Washington has no plans to end the blockade, which has succeeded in partially thwarting the island’s development.

Biden’s statements on the issue were ambiguous. On the one hand he said that a “transition” is needed in US policy towards Cuba but on the other implied that Washington has no plans to end the hostility towards its Caribbean neighbor.

Several governments of Latin America have made it clear to President Obama that Cuba is a priority in the region and that rapprochement with the island would go a long way to mending the negative image that Washington has cultivated in the region over past administrations.

With the recent announcement of restored diplomatic relations between Costa Rica and Cuba, and El Salvador expected to do the same this summer, the only remaining country in the hemisphere without official ties with Cuba will be the United States.

When President Obama meets in Trinidad for the first time in mass with Latin American and Caribbean leaders, several presidents including Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez are expected to make known their sharp opposition to ostracizing Cuba.

In recent months the presidents of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Panama, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala, and Honduras have visited Cuba and all have pronounced themselves against the US blockade.