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US urged to rethink relations with Cuba

Sunday, February 03, 2013 | 1:01 PM    

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WASHINGTON, USA (CMC) – A major think tank here is urging the Obama administration to quickly adopt three important initial steps that would “trigger a speedy rapprochement” with the Spanish-speaking nation.

In its latest report, the Washington-based Council of Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) urged Washington to “immediately phase out the embargo, free the ‘Cuban five,’ and remove Havana from the spurious State Department roster of nations purportedly sponsoring terrorism.

“These measures should be seen as indispensable if Washington is to ever mount a credible regional policy of mutual respect among nations and adjust to the increased ideological diversity and independence of the Latin American and Caribbean regions,” COHA said.

It said Washington’s path towards an “urgently needed rehabilitation of its hemispheric policy” must also include consideration of “Cuba’s own pressing national interests.”

COHA said a thaw in US-Cuba relations would enhance existing security cooperation between the countries, amplify trade and commercial ties, and guarantee new opportunities for citizens of both nations to “build bridges of friendship and cooperation.”

In addition to being counter-productive and immoral, COHA said US policy towards Havana is also out-dated, stating that, ironically, at the present juncture of world history, “the embargo is in some ways isolating the US rather than Cuba.

“Washington is often viewed as implementing a regional policy that is defenceless and without a compass,” it said.

In furthering moves towards rapprochement with Cuba, COHA urged the US State Department to remove the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, saying that “it is an invention” to depict Havana as such.

The think tank said another “gesture of good will” would be for the White House to grant clemency to the Cuban five: Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino, Fernando Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero and René Gonzalez.

The Cuban nationals were convicted in a Miami court in 2001 and subsequently sentenced to terms ranging from 15 years to double life, mostly on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage.

Despite requests for a change of venue out of Miami, which at first was granted and later denied, COHA claimed that the trial took place in a “politically-charged Miami atmosphere that arguably tainted the proceedings and compromised justice.”

According to COHA, supporters maintain that the Cuban five had infiltrated extremist anti-Castro organisations in order to prevent terrorist attacks against Cuba and did not pose any security threat to the United States.

“It would be an important humanitarian gesture to let them go home,” it said. “Perhaps, such a gesture might facilitate reciprocity on the part of Cuban authorities when it comes to American engineer Alan Gross, who is presently being detained in a Cuban jail.”

COHA said there would probably be a political price to pay by the Obama administration for taking steps towards reconciliation with Havana.

But it said if Obama’s election to a second term means that there is to be a “progressive dividend, surely such a dividend ought to include a change in US policy towards the island.”

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