‘US-led trade embargo suffocating reality’

Havana, March 30 (IANS) The US-led trade embargo remains a “suffocating reality” for the Cuban people, Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Minister has said.

Despite restored diplomatic ties and a recent visit by US President Barack Obama, the embargo continues to cripple Cuba’s economy and any prospects for real progress, Bruno Rodriguez said on Tuesday.

With no end in sight to the half-century embargo, as Obama himself admitted in Havana, the policy, which Cuba defines as a blockade, stands in the way of normalising bilateral ties between Cuba and the US, Xinhua quoted Rodriguez as saying.

“I can say the blockade continues to be a daily reality and the main obstacle to our economic development, and the fundamental cause of hardship for all Cuban families,” said the minister.

At a joint press conference with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana on March 21, Obama said: “The embargo is going to end. When? I can’t be entirely sure, but I believe it will end.”

As long as Washington continues to inflict the “suffocating reality” of the embargo on Cubans, then it “persists” in its goal of achieving “economic domination” over the island, said Rodriguez.

Echoing the general sentiment among Cuban officials that Obama’s visit was little more than feel-good diplomacy, Rodriguez said: “A kind phrase, a smile or a gesture of sympathy cannot erase from memory what has been a long, complex history that has marked the lives of Cubans, 77 percent of whom were born during the embargo, which still continues.”

Rather than promoting bilateral ties, Obama’s visit served to “show his personal charisma and… effective use of the media,” said the foreign minister.

Obama travelled to Cuba from March 20-22 as part of a two-nation tour of Latin America that included Argentina.

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