Havana sees no sign Obama will change U.S. policy on Cuba
BY DANIEL TROTTA
HAVANA Wed Oct 8, 2014 2:34pm EDT
(Reuters) – Cuba has received no indication the Obama administration
might change U.S. policy toward Cuba despite increasing support within
the United States for closer ties, a top Cuban official said on Wednesday.
“We don’t have those indications (of any policy change),” Josefina
Vidal, chief of the Cuban foreign ministry’s U.S. division, told
reporters in Havana after attending a forum discussing the U.S. embargo.
The United States has maintained a comprehensive economic embargo
against the communist-led island since 1962, a Cold War policy that has
been strengthened through the years even after the fall of the Soviet
Union in 1991.
Proponents of the current U.S. policy point to Cuba’s one-party
political system, repression of political opponents and a command
economy that limits economic freedoms as reasons to maintain the embargo.
Vidal said there was a growing number of public opinion polls supporting
a policy change in the United States.
Since leaving office in 2013, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
revealed she recommended that President Barack Obama change U.S. policy
toward Cuba, saying it was ineffective and holding back the U.S. agenda
in the rest of Latin America.
Obama, immersed in a number of foreign policy crises elsewhere in the
world and with midterm elections coming in November, has given little
public indication he plans to review Cuba policy.
The Obama administration maintains that same stance in private, Vidal said.
“We always approach these topics …. There is no response,” Vidal said.
While the two countries lack diplomatic relations, they maintain
communications through each other’s interests sections in Washington and
Havana. Officials from both countries engage on a variety of issues and
Vidal has met with Roberta Jacobson, the U.S. State Department head of
Western Hemisphere affairs.
In many of these forums Cuba raises opposition to the embargo and other
economic sanctions such as those imposed by virtue of the U.S. keeping
Cuba on a list of state sponsors of terrorism along with Iran, Syria and
“The philosophy of punishing Cuba remains in effect,” Vidal said.
The United Nations has condemned the embargo for 22 straight years in
lopsided votes, and the next vote is set for Oct. 28.
U.S. policy toward Cuba has long appeared to be influenced by domestic
politics in Florida, where Cuban exiles have opposed any conciliation
with former President Fidel Castro or current President Raul Castro, who
took over for his brother in 2008.
But a Florida International University poll released in June found 52
percent of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County oppose continuing the
embargo and 68 percent favor diplomatic relations with Cuba.
An Atlantic Council poll released in February found 56 percent of
Americans and 63 percent of Floridians favor normalizing relations.
One test will come in the November election for Florida governor.
Democratic challenger Charlie Crist is campaigning on a platform that
includes support for normalizing relations, while incumbent Governor
Rick Scott supports current policy.
(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
Source: Havana sees no sign Obama will change U.S. policy on Cuba |