Washington, Feb 20 – The recently announced visit of U.S. President, Barack Obama, to Cuba was taken by the two sides as a possibility to boost relations, in a stage of challenges such as the validity of the blockade imposed to the island.
The president will travel to the Caribbean island on March 21 and 22, as the White House confirmed yesterday, in a news that attracted worldwide attention, despite expected since yesterday.
For many, the Latin American tour that will include Argentina could help to clear up doubts about the reversibility of the process of bilateral rapprochement started 14 months ago, when Obama and President, Raul Castro, informed their decision to move towards the normalization of ties.
“This visit will be another step towards improving relations between Cuba and the United States,” said a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Havana, presented to the press by the general director of the United States department, Josefina Vidal.
The diplomat stated that this will be an opportunity so that Obama can appreciate the reality of the island, and expand dialogue and cooperation on issues of mutual interest.
On his part, the assistant to the U.S. President and Deputy National Security Advisor, Benjamin Rhodes, praised in this capital the trip, the first by a head of the White House to Cuba in nearly 90 years.
We are very encouraged, nothing can help more in the rapprochement of this trip to Havana, he said at the Institute of Peace, where its first annual conference the Cuba Consortium, a bipartisan agency set up to accompany the process towards the normalization, was held.
The secretaries of U.S. Agriculture and Trade, Tom Vilsack and Penny Pritzker, respectively, who celebrated the announcement, also participated in that event.
“This historic visit is very exciting, which will undoubtedly push beyond our relations,” Pritzker said.
The confirmation took place in the context of the presence here of a large delegation from Cuba, led by Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca.
The group, comprised of officials from the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central Bank, the Chamber of Commerce, and companies, participated in meetings.
The delegation of the island attended a session of the U.S.-Cuba Business Council and the second regulatory meeting on the modifications to the blockade.
During his stay, Malmierca met with Secretary of State, John Kerry; Pritzker; Vilsack; U.S. trade representative, Michael Froman; the president of the Chamber of Commerce, Thomas Donohue; and Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe.
The minister reiterated several speeches that the blockade imposed for more than 50 years is the main obstacle for business ties, considered a key stage to face the irreversibility of the approach.
He also recognized Obama’s three packages of executive measures to ease the siege, although described them as insufficient, to keep the essence of the unilateral sanctions.
In that regard, he mentioned the need to lift the ban of using U.S. dollar in Cuban transactions, opening the U.S. market to products from the island, and authorizing companies to invest in the Caribbean nation.
Host officials, such as Pritzker and Vilsack, admitted the impact of the blockade in the bilateral ties and the importance of ending it.(Prensa Latina)