by Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, April 13 —US President Barack Obama today laid the blame for poor US-Cuba relations squarely on Havana for its not acquiescing to Washington’s demands on how the island should be governed.
Obama is heading for Cartagena, Colombia on Friday where the stonewalling by the US on its Cuba policy is likely to be a hot subject at the Summit of the Americas, set for April 14-15.
Washington has maintained a half-century economic embargo on Cuba as well as a travel ban that prohibits US citizens from visiting the neighboring country without a special US Treasury Department license.
The embargo — designed to cripple the island’s economy, while the travel ban assists that effort and keeps Cuban life out of the reach of US citizens — has prevailed throughout ten US presidencies, with little hope for change currently on the table.
Trying to nix the Cuba issue before arriving, Obama told Colombia’s El Tiempo daily and other Latin American newspapers that Cuba’s exclusion from the summit is the fault of that country’s government.
“Cuban authorities have shown no interest whatsoever in changing their relations with the United States and also no disposition to respecting the democratic and human rights of the Cuban people.”
“Even during the recent visit to that country by Pope Benedict XVI, Cuban authorities insisted that Cuba is to remain a single-party state and proceeded to continue persecuting those who raise their voices in support of the rights of the Cuban people,” Obama added.
Cuba has not taken part in any of the previous five meetings of the Summit of the Americas. Though host Colombia and other Latin American countries wanted to invite the Caribbean nation to the Cartagena gathering, the United States staunchly refused – therefore Havana was not issued an invitation, noted the dpa news service.
In an attempt to show that he had gone the extra mile, the US president added, “I have clearly said we are looking for a new era in relations between our two countries. As president, I have made the most significant changes in several decades in our policy towards Cuba, including allowing family visits and making it possible for citizens to send remittances that grant a certain hope and independence to the people of Cuba.”
He did not mention that the crippling embargo, the key issue to improved relations, remains intact. Even many critics of the Cuban system believe the embargo is ineffective and should be ended. They claim it provides a catch-all excuse for erred policies of the Castro government.
The issue of the travel ban is actually a punishment the US government applies on its own citizens and is not an issue for Cuba, which welcomes US visitors as it does those from other countries.
Obama made it clear that a regime change in Havana is necessary for more substantial changes in ties, concluded dpa.
Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa is boycotting the Summit of the Americas in protest of the exclusion of Cuba. Similarly, several other countries — including the Colombian host — are critical of the stance by the US and are saying that such a policy must change for future events.