Ending the Cuba embargo: How Caricom can help

Friday, March 28, 2014    

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WE welcome the latest call by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) for an end to the 54-year-old United States embargo on Cuba.

But even as we acknowledge the correctness of the position, we must admit that Washington has, over time, softened its policies toward Havana, especially after former President Fidel Castro stepped aside and transferred power to his brother, Raul, in 2008.

The younger Castro, too, has made some concessions, gradually implementing economic reforms and lifting travel restrictions, among other measures designed to open up the Cuban economy.

It is also noteworthy that President Barack Obama has not been as belligerent as some previous US leaders. That has helped greatly in not worsening relations.

It is our hope that these measures will lead to more policy shifts that can improve relationships between both countries because the Cuban people have suffered for too long.

Maybe as a demonstration of goodwill both nations could agree to a prisoner exchange, because that appears to be one of the issues that is preventing a thaw in relations.

There are, of course, other issues of great importance that both Washington and Havana must address.

However, we share the view advanced by Mr Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in The Morning Call last week, that "a normal, functioning relationship, built on respect and trade and the exchange of people and ideas, might lead to the very thing the embargo has failed to achieve -- a more open, less-besieged Cuba".

And, as Mr Goldberg so correctly pointed out, any policy that has not worked after 50 years needs changing.

In renewing Caricom's call for an end to the embargo, Secretary General Irwin La Rocque said "Caricom knows well the value of unity on the international front, given that co-ordination of foreign policy is one of the pillars of our integration movement".

Mr La Rocque also pointed out that Caricom has "joined with like-minded states to both advance and protect our interests and support causes and initiatives of priority concern to us". That, he noted, is the reason that Caricom has consistently supported United Nations resolutions aimed at ending the embargo.

It is a most principled position and one that is rooted in logic which, we assume, is shared by many people with influence in Washington.

Maybe, as its contribution to an improvement in relations between America and Cuba, Caricom could act as a broker, especially for the fact that our diplomats enjoy some level of respect in both countries.

The Cuba-Caricom summit scheduled for Havana on December 8 will, we believe, offer a perfect platform to engage in that kind of diplomacy amidst its planned goal of continued exchange of common issues and deepening of the existing relationship.





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