Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — Recent news seems to suggest changes in the opinions of a number of individuals and governments with respect to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States more than 50 years ago.
Reports from the United States inform us of the statements former Florida governor Charlie Crist made to the press. Crist referred to the blockade as an “inefficient relic” and called for its lifting. In his judgment, this would allow Florida farmers, manufacturers and others to enter into commercial relations with Cuba that would bolster the economy and create jobs.
Over the last few weeks, Florida businesspeople and personalities have called for the lifting of this, the longest blockade in history – a blockade that has cost the Cuban people more than a 1.1 trillion dollars.
Let us not forget, what’s more, that the blockade on Cuba has been condemned at the UN General Assembly by nearly all of the international community for 22 consecutive years.
More recently – this past February 10 – the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union (EU) approved seeking negotiations surrounding political and cooperation talks with Cuba.
It is curious that EU foreign ministers approved this point without a previous debate. This means there was unanimity of opinions on this matter, dealing a crushing blow to the so-called “Common Position” vis-à-vis Cuba advanced in 1996 by the then Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar.
According to press reports, the aim is to “broaden spaces of cooperation with the island, support its socio-economic reforms and encourage greater respect towards human rights.” What the report doesn’t say is where they would encourage “greater respect towards human rights”, because, in many European countries, there is still plenty to be done in this connection. It remains to be seen where human rights are respected more, in Cuba or in Europe.
That same day, after these reports were divulged, EU Ambassador in Havana Herman Portocarrero offered a press conference to report on this decision, declaring he had submitted a letter from the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherina Ashton to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodriguez to inform him of the EU’s decision.
Portocarrero called the decision a “very important step in relations with Cuba, as it will allow us to make future inroads and result in mutual benefits. We trust that mutual respect and the determination to find common ground will prevail,” he said, adding that, “during the CELAC Summit, we’ve seen that Cuba plays a very important role in regional cooperation efforts. We think that Cuba will play a very powerful role in future regional integration, something we want to support,” he concluded.
On Tuesday, February 11, Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy and his Republican colleague Jeff Flake demanded that the US government put an end to the commercial, economic and financial blockade on Cuba, alleging that the majority of Americans long to see a change in the country’s policy towards Cuba. The legislators pointed out that there is much to be gained from “eliminating this Cold War relic.”
With these outdated policies, we are not isolating Cuba, we are isolating ourselves, they stated in an article published by the Miami Herald.
In my opinion, both the European Union and many US government officials are coming to the realization that, while the blockade causes the Cuban economy considerable damage, our country continues to make progress and to develop – perhaps not as quickly as we would want, but the future is promising. The feeling of isolation stems from seeing the role Cuba is playing in terms of the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean, one of the world’s most important regions.
Ambassador Portocarrero says as much when he stresses “Cuba’s role as the leader of the integration process impelled through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which is of immense value for the European Union, wishing, as it does, to strengthen relations with countries in the region.”
The Cuban government immediately issued a declaration, signed by Vice-Minister Rogelio Sierra, declaring that “Cuba will consider the invitation advanced by Europe in a respectful and constructive manner, in adherence to its sovereignty and national sovereignty.”
Unquestionably, a change in the EU’s policy towards the island and the elimination of the US blockade are very important – but let no one believe they will be able to use such measures to blackmail this country or to meddle in its internal affairs.