Is it possible to end the US Cuba embargo?

The UN General Assembly yesterday, Tuesday 29th, voted, for the 22nd year in a row, against the US Cuba embargo, known in this country as “bloqueo capitalista”.

In 1960, Cuba started to expropriate the properties of US citizens that were living in the island, so US government began a commercial, financial and economic embargo on the island.

In February 1962, in the middle of Cold War, the communist government of Cuba, led by Fidel Castro, introduced several missiles on his territory pointing to the United States, with the help and support of Nikita Khrushchev’s communist Russia. So US President Kennedy made a total blockade of the island.

Afterwards, in 1992 US said that they would remove the lock when Cuba becomes a democracy where human rights are respected. This was accentuated in 1996 with the creation of Helms-Burton Act, which states that any non-US company that has dealings with Cuba may be subject to legal reprisals, and that the leaders of the company may not be allowed to entry the United States.

The resolution reached 188 votes for a total of 193 nations. Israel was the only country that joined Washington in voting against the end of the embargo. In 2012 Palau voted for the interests of US but this year they abstained.

“The human damages caused by the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States are incalculable”, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told the assembly.

“It provokes hardships and is a mass, flagrant and systematic violation of human rights,” he said. “The fact that 53 years later the same policy still prevails is something extraordinary and barbaric.”

To this, the Foreign Minister of US, Ronal Godard, attacked Cuba saying that this country has a restricted economic system towards other countries, that doesn’t allow the progression of the economy, and that the government is hypocrite to ask for economic liberalization when in their own country they imprison people for creating web pages on the Internet, considered by the Cuban government as an attacked to the country’s security.

Still, Godard said that the United States have eased the embargo in this recent years. In 2012 Cuba received more than $ 2 billion in remittances. USA exported to Cuba, even though the restrictions, products that worth nearly $ 465 million, which included food, medical instruments, medicines…

Is this going to be the definitive end of the US Cuba embargo, or there will have to be more votes to solve this problem?

Interviewing a rootless Cuban: Henrique García Pileta

Henrique and me

Henrique García Pileta looks like Spaniard, he has European ascendance but he was born in Santa Clara, situated in Cuba. He is tall, green-eyed and his skin is pretty white, the only evidence of his precedence is his accent and the stories which he tells. Nowadays, he lives in Madrid, but he was in Cuba during the mandate of Fidel Castro.
We met at a café in order to talk a little about his past, how his life is now and make an interview. I was interested in knowing him more in deep. It is not possible to express here how deeply touched he feels when his memories come to his mind.

Me: Good afternoon Henrique, could you introduce yourself in a few words?
Henrique: Good afternoon Isa, I’m Henrique from Cuba. I’m twenty-three years old and I live here in Spain since I was eighteen years old. My parents were born in La Habana as me, but my grandparents are from Venezuela and Spain.
M: Why did your grandparents leave their countries?
H: Well, it’s not easy to explain. On the one hand, my Spanish grandparents are from Galicia, and they left their city when the Spanish Civil War started in 1936. They had a hard life because they came to Cuba and they started here from nothing. On the other hand, my Venezuelan grandparents are still in Venezuela. They have a big fortune so they have well-off lives.
M: How did you come to Spain?
H: hmm… my parents migrated to Argentina in order to escape from the regime in Cuba when I was thirteen. I couldn’t follow them due to my age. As you may know, if you are under-eighteen, you can’t easily go away from Cuba. Later, my parents moved again from Buenos Aires to Madrid because of the “Corralito”. When I reached the legal age, I came here to meet them.
M: How was your life in Cuba living without your parents?
H: I was living with my Spanish grandparents, but this didn’t make me feel better, even though I love them as much as they were my own parents. I passed my whole teenage alone and missing them. It was hard to stand but that made me grow up.
M: I see that you are getting thrilled, was everything that bad?
H: Not so bad, when you lose someone as important as your parents, you learn how to balance that missing. My friends were a great support for me those years.
M: What’s your opinion about Fidel Castro’s regime that time? Do you think that is something different now with Raul Castro?
H: I don’t feel too interested in politics, but the only thing that annoys me, is that my parents had to leave the island because of the repression there, and consequently, I had to live with my grandparents for those years. From my point of view, a regime that puts borders to your freedom is a dictatorship. I know that some of the Cuban population supports their political party because they consider him the voice of the people. Nowadays, I am not too informed about politics there in Cuba, I felt completely rootless about Cuba. The grandparents that I had there passed away and all my relatives live in Venezuela or Spain.
M: What are the rights that you felt violated by the regime?
H: A clear example is the freedom of residence, I couldn’t choose my home. There is either press freedom or freedom of expression. This make that the Cuban people is apart from the politics. They have of course their own ideologies but under a suppressor regime like this, is not possible to express it.
M: How do you live now?
H: Now I live with my parents in Madrid. I study languages and I feel completely integrated in this multicultural society. Sometimes I feel like in Cuba due to the big Caribbean population here.
M: Your parents left Argentina because of the “Corralito”, as you know there is a growing fear of living a similar situation in Spain. What did your parents tell you about their experience in Argentina?
H: Well, you know, the “Corralito” was a financial crisis where the bank couldn’t stand their debts. Because of that, people couldn’t take their money out of banks. My parents told me that panic took possession of the people in the streets. There were many demonstrations, strikes and riots. The media played its role and alarmed the population even more. My parents took their savings when they couldn’t but by that time, they had already decided to come back to my father’s land, Spain.
M: Do you include in your plans for the future to come back to Cuba?
H: Although sometimes, I miss Cuba, the people there, the atmosphere, the Caribbean sea and all those things, as I told you, I felt a little bit rootless and I can’t forget that was in Cuba where I lived the hardest days of my life without my parents.
M: I hope you reach your goals and be happy forever. Take advantage of your experiences. Thank you very much for your time, it has been a pleasure.
H: The same to you, Thank you very much.

The Catholic Church trip to Cuba after fourteen years

Isabel Rivero Garzón, Victoria Gerbaudo Delfino, Olga Conde Martín, Estefanía Sánchez Martínez.

Benedict XVI, head of the Catholic Church, visited Cuba for a few days. With which they have arrested dozens of opposition members, including many Ladies in White, who was demanding the release of political prisoners and the speaker attempting to exploit the presence of the Pope to make their voices heard. At the same time, Castro’s regime was mobilizing to ensure that the Pope see in the streets of Santiago de Cuba and Havana a country suitable to their interests. Visit of Benedict XVI has raised expectations far less popular than was that of John Paul II in 1998, it is concluded that the possibility that results in changes in the relationship with the Cuban regime internal opposition is really minimal. In fact, it is not that the purpose of this papal trip.

The Holy See has been the central objective of the Pope to defend and strengthen the role of the Catholic Church on the island as a partner and even mediator with this communist regime. Pope Benedict said that “Marxism is no longer responding to the reality and need to find new models.” Words were quickly downplayed by the head of Cuban diplomacy and will not cause any confrontation with the authorities in Havana.

Benedict XVI is aware that the Church plays and has a big chance to develope such an important role in the Cuban political process. It’s very important not forgetting that the Cuban hierarchy has been featured since 2010 in order to produce the release of 126 political prisoners, many of which 2900 Cuban prisoners. Vatican diplomacy believes that this way of dialogue with the regime is more effective than express open and explicit backing the opposition. So the Pope has no plans on the agenda no meeting with opponents.

The leader of the Catholic Church had a meeting with Raul Castro, he propounded that Good Friday would be made an official holiday. Also he was chatting with Fidel Castro, who transferred the power to his brother. Castro has been out of power since 2006 but continues having an impact in the country’s politics.

The shocking visit of John Paul II in 1998 accelerated the process of reconciliation between the Church and the Cuban government after decades of friction. In this visit John Paul II Christmas was declared a national holiday. Now, the journey of his successor aims to strengthen ties gestated many use of media and religious education.

Pope called on Cubans to give effect to the faith and to the weapons of peace, forgiveness and understanding, “strive to build an open society and renewed, a better, more worthy of man”. Benedict XVI made this appeal in his homily at the Mass which acts on the square “Antonio Maceo” , attended by thousands of Cubans from all over the island and abroad.

The second papal visit to Cuba full of optimism but also criticism

Pope Benedict XVI gave two sermons during his visit in Cuba

Pope Benedict XVI, the current leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, made a three-day visit to Cuba from Monday the 26th until Wednesday the 28th this week. The papal visit was the first in 14 years in the communist island after the visit by Polish John Paul II.

Despite the fact that only 10 percent of Cuba’s 11 million people are Catholic, the Church has been an important non-state agent in the state which was officially atheist since the early 1990s. President Raul Castro has slowly given the Church more power as an interlocutor on issues concerning political prisoners and dissidents.

The main reason for the pope’s visit was to unite the loose church-state ties but also to encourage the authorities of the one-party Communist state to assimilate change for a more open, less controlled society.

Before flying to the capital, Havana, the pope visited the second largest city of Cuba, Santiago, and started his visit by giving an open-air mass for hundreds of thousands of Cubans. “I am convinced that Cuba, at this moment of particular importance in its history, is already looking to the future, and thus is striving to renew and broaden its horizons,” Benedict XVI proclaimed to the cheering Cubans. The pontiff also tried to appeal the listeners to help to construct a “renewed and open society, a better society, one more worthy of humanity.”

In contrast, the leaders of the nation claim that democracy already exists in Cuba and that they are not interested in deploying the Western multiparty system. Inviting the pontiff for the second visit of all time was an attempt to show the world that Cuba is getting more tolerant and approving to religious expression. Nonetheless, according to an opposition group in Havana, authorities had apprehended at least 150 dissidents before the visit of the pope to avoid any kind of demonstrations during the papal visit.

The pontiff was able to meet both of the Cuban leaders. He had a 55-minute closed-door meeting with President Raul Castro on Tuesday where he propounded that Good Friday would be made an official holiday just as Christmas was declared a national holiday after the last pope’s visit in 1998.

On Wednesday he gave an open-air mass in Havana’s Revolution Square for estimated 300.000 people. The homily was concerning the same themes he had been talking about previously during the trip. After the mass Benedict had a 30 minutes chat with the president’s older brother, Fidel Castro, who has been out of power since the year 2006 but continues having an impact in the country’s politics.

The meeting was held in the Vatican Embassy and the atmosphere was described “very cordial” by the Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi. The two octogenarian leaders were discussing about earnest issues like Church liturgy and the state of the world but also making fun of their ages. This gracious meeting softened the beginning of the pope’s visit when he openly criticized the communist system that was set up by Castro after taking power in 1959.

Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Cuba for his three-day papal visit

89 miles to Cuba

Las 90 millas que separan el punto mas meridional del los Estados Unidos continentales con la isla de Cuba parecen acortarse, de manera figurada, tras cada medida de acercamiento con el país vecino llevada a cabo por la administración Obama.
Estudiantes y grupos eclesiásticos pronto tendrán mayores facilidades para viajar de Estados Unidos a Cuba bajo un nuevo plan anunciado por el Presidente Barack Obama.
Los estudiantes que se encuentren en busca de créditos académicos y las parroquias que viajen por motivos religiosos podrán viajar a Cuba. El nuevo plan anunciado por el presidente americano también permitirá mandar hasta 500 dólares cada tres meses a ciudadanos cubanos que no pertenezcan a la administración Castro y que no sean miembros del partido comunista.
Además, se permitirá que más aeropuertos ofrezcan servicios chárter con destino al país caribeño. Ahora mismo, solamente tres aeropuertos estadounidenses pueden ofrecer viajes chárter a Cuba: Miami, Los Ángeles y Nueva York. De esta manera, se permitirá a cualquier aeropuerto internacional con apropiadas facilidades de aduanas y de inmigración; siempre y cuando agencias de viajes con licencia pidan llevar a cabo chárter desde el aeropuerto.
La oficina de prensa de la Casa Blanca envió una exclusiva diciendo que Obama había dirigido estas nuevas medidas, las cuales no necesitan aprobación por parte del Congreso y que serán puestos en marcha en dos semanas.
Los cambios realizados por Obama el año pasado ya aumentaron la facilidad con la que los Cubanos residentes en el país vecino visitan a sus familias y envian remisas a sus familiares. Los cambios son similares a los que ya realizó el ex-presidente Bill Clinton.
El senador Bill Nelson fue el encargado de dar a conocer la noticia, que posteriormente fue confirmada por el presidente.
Estos cambios fueron inmediatamente criticados por líderes del congreso, quienes se opusieron calificando las medidas de demasiado ‘‘facilitadoras’’, por lo menos hasta que el régimen comunista de Cuba haga serios cambios democráticos.
La presidenta del Comité de Asuntos Exteriores para Florida, la republicana Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, dijo en una declaración que: “las medidas minan la política de extranjería y los objetivos de seguridad de Estados Unidos y que traerán beneficios económicos para el régimen cubano. ’’
Añadió Ros-Lehtinen: “Perder estas regulaciones no ayudará a crear un ambiente prodemocrático en Cuba. Estos cambios no ayudarán con el respeto a los derechos humanos. Y ciertamente no ayudarán al pueblo cubano a liberarse de la tiranía que les envuelve. ’’
Pepe Hernández, cabeza de la fundación nacional Cubano-americana, calificó a las medidas de muy positivas, sobre todo, la decisión de permitir a todos los americanos enviar dinero a ciudadanos cubanos.
“Ayudará a la interacción entre ciudadanos cubanos y estadounidenses normales, ayudará a los cubanos residentes en la isla a ganar independencia del gobierno cubano, especialmente ahora que más de un millón se quedará sin trabajo’’, dijo refiriéndose a la decisión de Raúl Castro de reducir la mano de obra del gobierno.

Miguel Ramón Zaldívar Fernández

Cuba reprocha a Obama

Desde que el presidente Barack Obama tomase la decisión de flexibilizar las restricciones para viajar a Cuba el pasado viernes se ha suscitado el revuelo con opiniones tanto escépticas como aprobadoras.

No sólo dentro del Congreso norteamericano sino fuera del mismo se ha valorado la decisión del Gobierno. Declara que deben contribuir a que se produzca un acercamiento con el pueblo cubano. Obama ordenó más concretamente facilitar los viajes académicos, culturales y religiosos con objeto de esa aproximación.

Las medidas permitirán a cualquier estadounidense,además, enviar hasta 2.000 dólares anuales a cubanos que no ostenten altos cargos en el gobierno ni en el partido comunista según la agencia EFE. También está dentro de sus medidas permitir que cualquier aeropuerto de EE UU pueda solicitar licencia para operar vuelos fletados.

Académicos y religiosos no precisan de licencia del Departamento del Tesoro. Será suficiente con una carta de invitación de un evento o de una entidad para viajar a la Isla. El presidente especificó que cualquier aeropuerto podría solicitar poder volar al país cubano. Es decir, se ampliará el número de aeropuertos que podrán ofrecer vuelos a Cuba o desde Cuba.

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Espejismos de cambio

Obama impulsa nuevas medidas hacia Cuba

El Gobierno cubano indicó que las nuevas medidas de Estados Unidos para flexibilizar las restricciones de viajes a la isla dejan “intacto el bloqueo”, pero reflejan la opinión de un amplio sector del país que apoya un cambio de política hacia la isla.

Con las primeras reacciónes sobre las nuevas medidas del gobierno estadounidense hacia la isla, el sitio oficial Cubadebate afirmó que las iniciativas del presidente estadounidense, Barack Obama, no cambian el embargo económico que hace casi medio siglo aplica Washington sobre La Habana.

Y es que desde que Estados Unidos inicio el embargo hacia la isla en el año 1960, ambos países han ido pasando por diferentes etapas merced a la voluntad de los diferentes presidentes norteamericanos y a las diferentes circunstancias. Pero lo cierto es que el bloqueo continua y no se termina de vislumbrar una salida a esta situación que ya dura demasiado. Leer más de esta entrada