We can say that Cuba and the United States have made progress in their relations, with a marked difference from the preceding stage, Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, Ministry of Foreign Relations director general for the United States, stated this Wednesday, December 16, in Havana.
Vidal announced that the delegations from the two countries meeting in Washington since December 14 to negotiate issues regarding civil aviation, have made significant progress and are close to reaching a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of regular flights.
Should this new agreement come to be, it would add to those already reached regarding environmental protection, marine protected areas, and direct mail.
Shortly before the first anniversary of the announcements made on December 17, 2014, by Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro regarding the decision to restore relations, Vidal said that there has been important progress in the political and diplomatic fields.
She referred to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, the reopening of embassies and the removal of the island from the unilateral list of countries sponsoring terrorism. She also highlighted the personal meetings between the leaders of Cuba and the United States as well as that of Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
She noted that already existing cooperation in traditional areas has been expanded, such as search and rescue and the fight against drug trafficking and migration; while new areas have opened such as port maritime security, application and enforcement of the law and health.
The Cuban diplomat preferred not to reveal anything regarding the upcoming topics to be discussed, but said there was a “wide range” of options and many plans for the following year.
“The key to the successof this processisrespectand treatmentas equals,” Vidal stressed.
A LOT MORE TO DO
The Cuban diplomat noted that in the economic-commercial area, the results are barely visible. Many of the measures implemented so far in this field are positive but are limited in scope. They also include elements that make their implementation impossible.
She recalled that the U.S president has broad powers to change the situation and could “expand the scope of these measures or take others.”
She specifically noted that Obama could allow Cuba to use the dollar in international transactions, access private credit and permit trade in both directions, and not unilaterally as has been the case to date.
She added that no progress has been made this year on key issues for normalized relations, such as an end to the blockade, the return of the territory illegally occupied in Guantánamo, the end of subversive programs and illegal broadcasting, and the continued preferential migratory policy toward Cubans that encourages illegal migration.
Regarding the context within the U.S. Congress during the past year, she noted the visible existence of bipartisan support for change, as expressed by the delegations that have visited Cuba in increasing numbers.
She highlighted that this Wednesday, December 16, a working group composed of Democrats and Republicans to advance the rapprochement with Cuba was created, with a dozen members.
A MODEL FOR CIVILIZED COEXISTENCE
In response to a question from the press, Vidal also referred to recent statements by Barack Obama to Yahoo News regarding a possible trip to the island before the end of his term in office.
“The day the president decides to come to Cuba, he will be welcome,” she said.
However, she added that Cuba has always been clear that issues inherent to the domestic law of the country are not up for negotiation in exchange for the normalization of relations with Washington.
We do not demand that things we do not like about the United States be changed in order for us to speak with or visit the country.
Countries may have differing opinions about what happens in the other, but that can not be used as leverage to achieve certain changes, she stressed.
Vidal concluded that “even with the differences that exist between our countries, better links will only bring benefits to both countries and their peoples. We really believe that a model of civilized coexistence is the best contribution that we can leave the present and future generations of Cuba, the U.S. and the entire region.”