The two events, the legislation passed by the US House of Representatives easing travel and trade restrictions and recent municipal election in Cuba suggest the US will end the 48yr-old embargo against Cuba despite public bickering between top government representatives of both countries lately. Any diplomatic co-operation by the US with Cuba is widely regarded as an opening of a trade door not only to Cuba but also to the Latin American world especially in a time the long-standing ally, Brazil and others from the region drifting away to China-centric international behaviour.
Although the utterances by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon stand in the way of improving ties between both countries diplomatic developments in the region is likely to override those differences. Clinton told last month that Fidel Castro and his brother President Raul Castro “do not want to see an end to the embargo and do not want to see normalization with the United States, because they would then lose all their excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years.” In retaliation, Alarcon challenged her to lift the embargo even for a year to see whether it was in his country’s interest or hers.
When President Barack Obama assumed office last year he called for better ties with Cuba if Castro executed democratic reforms and improved human rights status, an US policy widely criticized over its double standards in dealing with China and Saudi Arabia at the same time. However, the recent election in Cuba which saw almost 95 percent of the electorate exercising their franchise, technically helps Obama to put in effect one of his poll promises.
The legislation approved by the House does not lift the overall embargo, but prohibits advance payment for agricultural sales to Cuba. Likewise, this week’s election in which Cubans was able to choose between more than one candidate also cannot be termed as a major electoral reform as it does not interfere with the top leadership of the country.
The US rice sales to Cuba declined every year after the Bush administration’s cash-in-advance rules were imposed in 2005. The new provision if ratified is expected to make the US rice and other agro-commodities once again attractive to Cuba. The US Chamber of Commerce estimates the embargo costs the country about $1.2bn a year in lost business.
All trade with Cuba, with the exception of US exports of agricultural products and some essential medicines, has been prohibited since 1962. Under George W Bush, the Cuban-Americans were eligible to travel to Cuba only once every three years and were limited to sending only $300 to relatives every three months. On the contrary, the Obama administration relaxed travel and remittances restrictions that allowed Americans with relatives in Cuba to travel there more frequently with longer stay duration and to send as much money as they want to any Cuban who is not a senior government or Communist party official.
Toboc Trade News