"Obama should read Granma"
Issued on: Modified:
Gaja Pellegrini is a communications consultant in Belgium. She's been following the situation in Cuba since a visit to the country two years ago, during which she met one of Che Guevara's travelling companions.
Image: "Pexi" on Flickr.
Gaja Pellegrini is a communications consultant in Belgium. She's been following the situation in Cuba since a visit to the country two years ago, during which she met one of Che Guevara's travelling companions (Polito Torres).
When you pick up an issue of the Cuban national paper Granma you expect nothing less than to find anti-imperialistic propaganda articles that leave little room for bipartisan sentiment. Perhaps. Or perhaps bipartisan information is there, once the propaganda veneer is stripped away, to reveal itself as a terrific tool to identify what needs to change in US-Cuban relations and bring us into the new era of political responsibility we have been promised by President Obama.
The Obama administration has repeatedly stated the importance of a review of US policy on Cuba. While the president is expected to attend the 5th Summit of the Americas on 17 April in Trinidad and Tobago, which will focus on "Securing Our Citizens' Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability," and to announce new policies on Cuba, there is a lack of alignment in the bills that are being passed in Congress on the one side and embargo measures that are being reinforced on the other.
On 11 March Congress passed a bill that will ease restrictions against travel and medicine on Cuba, making it easier to sell agricultural and medical goods to the island and effectively reversing limits imposed under the previous Bush administration in 2004. This would seem to indicate the intention to eventually drop the embargo which has been repeatedly condemned by the UN and other worldwide institutions. Although President Obama for the moment has maintained that the embargo will remain in place.
On the same day, 11 March, Granma published a thought-provoking article on this issue, highlighting what would seem to be a contradiction in current US policies towards the Caribbean island. The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sanctioned the company Lactalis USA, Inc. (the US branch of Lactalis France) to pay US $20,950.38 [€16,000] for not complying with embargo rules. Lactalis was charged with making six unlicensed wire transfer payments in which Cuba or Cuban nationals had an interest.
This is the first sanction that the US Treasury Department has imposed on Cuba since President Obama took office. The reason is politics as usual. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has confirmed Stuart Levey as the first Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, a role he held since 2004 under the Bush administration. We must not forget that Cabinet Defence Secretary Robert Gates is Republican. This is a post which in the past has traditionally been given to Republican party representatives. As undersecretary, Levey oversees the OFAC, which explains the apparent inconsistency with the administrations' announced change in policy towards Cuba.
Interestingly, the Cuban government views this apparent dichotomy as part of the last-ditch efforts of the remaining Bush staff to block the new administration's policies. The Cuban government is leaving the door open for new relations with the US, an opportunity not to be missed for both governments after a 47-year-old US embargo."