Havana, July 21 (IANS) As the United States and Cuba mark one year of resumption of full diplomatic ties, the top priority for Havana remains ending the decades old US economic embargo, a senior official here said.
Josefina Vidal, North America Director in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday said the process of fully normalising bilateral relations would be “long and complex” and could only occur if the embargo, imposed in 1962, was eliminated, EFE news reported.
Vidal, the island’s chief negotiator since the US-Cuba thaw began in December 2014, said the “dissuasive and punitive components” of the embargo were still having a negative impact on the Cuban economy.
US President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba in March was “an important step” towards improving relations and an opportunity to present the island’s position on “priority” and sensitive issues on their bilateral agenda such as human rights, she said.
Asked how much more Obama can achieve before leaving the Presidency in January 2017, she said Cuba was hopeful the US President would use all executive powers at his disposal to change the existing US policy and ensure the continuity of the new bilateral stage.
“In short, (the president) can do much more to make the process irreversible going forward,” Vidal said of Obama, whose administration has already taken steps such as restoring direct postal services between the US and Cuba and giving airlines approval to provide services to the island as early as the fall.
Referring to the impact of the upcoming US presidential elections on the bilateral dialogue, she said the island was hopeful that the next president would heed the wishes of the US public, adding that Americans support the shift in policy towards Cuba by “a very wide margin”.
On July 20 last year, the two former Cold War enemies initiated their bilateral thaw by upgrading their respective interest sections to formal embassies.