Washington, Oct 15 (IANS) In its first reaction to the US decision to further lift sanctions on Cuba to facilitate trade as well as scientific and humanitarian exchanges between the two countries the island nation said the measures are more beneficial for Washington than Havana.
The General Director for America of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba said in Havana the new measures for further easing sanctions approved by the US President Barack Obama on Friday are more beneficial to the US than to Cuba, Efe reported.
Josefina Vidal, the most visible Cuban face in the process of normalisation of diplomatic relations between the two countries, said the measures are “positive” but very limited in nature while parts of Obama’s directives have interventionist aspects.
Obama issued a directive that is intended to seal its open policy towards Cuba and make it “irreversible”, accompanied by a new relaxation of the embargo to boost medical cooperation and help improve the island’s agriculture and infrastructure.
“The document does not hide the purpose of promoting changes in the political, economic and social order, nor hides the intention to further develop interventionist programs,” said Vidal.
Still, Vidal acknowledged the importance of the new directive since it recognises the Cuban government as a “legitimate and equal partner” as well as “the benefits that would accrue to both countries to achieve a relationship of civilized coexistence while large differences exist between the two governments”.
She said the policy contains guidelines that can be “useful” if the next US administration is willing to continue the rapprochement with Cuba.
Vidal also praised the new relaxations of the economic embargo, but opined that they’re limited in nature because most of them only broaden or deepen previous concessions.
She stressed that direct investment by the US companies is still prohibited except in the telecommunications sector, along with imports of Cuban products, especially those from the state sector, the prime driver of the national economy.
The official also stressed that the financial sector has not yet adopted the new measures, and restrictions remain on Cuban banks trying to open accounts at the US bank branches.
The measures approved by the US, which constitute the sixth round of easing of sanctions will take effect on October 17, include the promotion of joint medical research projects between citizens and imports of the US and Cuban pharmaceutical products.
They also allow authorised Americans to provide services related to the development, repair and maintenance of infrastructure services in Cuba and exports from the US of items such as pesticides and tractors.
In addition, the restrictions that prevented certain foreign vessels that had entered the Cuban ports from entering the US have been removed for purposes of loading or unloading within 180 days, and the curbs put on American travellers bringing back Cuban rum and tobacco for personal use will be lifted.
On December 17, 2014, Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro announced that the two countries would normalise relations after more than a half century of enmity.
“This new directive consolidates and builds upon the changes we have already made, promotes transparency by being clear about our policy and intentions, and encourages further engagement between our countries and our people,” Obama said in a statement.
In the new directive, the Obama administration also renewed its call on Congress to lift the embargo on Cuba.
“The embargo is outdated and should be lifted,” Obama said.