By Pilar Montes
HAVANA TIMES — That was the question a journalist put to the Cuban foreign minister during the presentation of the resolution to be discussed again at the UN General Assembly, calling for the lifting of the blockade on Cuba.
As expected, Bruno Rodriguez suggested that the journalist pose the question to US officials.
We are again nearing the discussion of the one item on the General Assembly agenda that has been addressed year after year since 1992, prompting the overwhelming majority of member nations to vote in favor of the lifting of the US embargo, which has been in effect for 53 years now. Last year’s vote was 188 to 2 (the US and Israel).
How will our northern neighbor vote on this occasion, after relations between Washington and Havana have been reestablished and a bilateral commission has been set up to trace the road to normalization?
Political leaders know how to hide behind smiles, but this move will be tough for Obama, as Cuban President Raul Castro is among the 170 heads of State he will have to greet at the gathering.
The US president has criticized the embargo but the truth is that the island continues to be the one target of the Trading with the Enemy Act and sanctions continue to be imposed on banks, companies and businesspeople who deal with Cuba.
A positive gesture from the US State Department would be to abstain during the voting, as the embargo is still in effect. However, the powerful sectors who wish to maintain the restrictions will continue to vote against their elimination and I fear that will ultimately be the United States’ position.
We’ll witness another difficult moment when Pope Francis, who has also severely criticized the blockade on Cuba, addresses UN members during his visit to the United States from September 22 to 27, a visit that will begin with a reception at the Andrews Military Base offered by Barack Obama.
I feel both leaders have a sense of daring in common: one has done what 10 previous US administrations had not dared to do, the other has broken more than one protocol and neglected the etiquette demanded by his position to defend the poor, condemn war and call on the clergy to come out of the church to seek out those in need of help and spiritual counsel.
The Pope does not appear to fear for his life, but law and order officials and security forces in the United States are trembling, as is the FBI, who are to deploy all of their cutting-edge technology to protect this charismatic personality.
According to experts, his visit to the White House and Congress, as well as the mass he will offer in the capital, are not the most dangerous activities.
His New York tour includes a mass at Madison Square Garden, a procession down Central Park, a visit to a school in Harlem, a speech before the UN General Assembly and an address in the historic city of Philadelphia, where he is to offer a mass in an open area where two million people are expected to gather.
He will also deliver a speech in Philadelphia during the World Gathering of Families, a key issue of his pastoral strategy.