Canada helps end half-century U.S. embargo against Cuba
The “Government of Canada” and a timely nudge from Pope Francis were crucial ingredients in ending America’s half century of isolation on Cuba, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.
In a 15-minute address from the White House, Obama singled out Canada’s role as a third-party broker, hosting secret talks that led to the historic rapprochement.
Obama said U.S. policy that “aimed to isolate the island” was rooted in events that transpired before most Americans were born. But the 1961 policy “had little effect.
“We will end this outdated approach … and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.”
The new chapter started with the release Wednesday morning of American contractor Alan Gross, 65, from a Cuban prison where he had been held for five years. The U.S. in exchange sent back three Cuban spies in U.S. prison since 2001.
Speaking simultaneously in Havana, Cuban President Raul Castro echoed Obama’s remarks, praising Canada and Pope Francis for their roles as key mediators in the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the U.S.
“We have profound differences on sovereignty, nationhood and democracy,” Castro cautioned in a nationally televised broadcast, the Star’s Oakland Ross reports.
“But we reaffirm our will to dialogue about all of these matters.”
Reading from a sheaf of notes and wearing his army uniform, Raul called on Washington to remove a range of obstacles to better relations, including restrictions on family visits and on direct mail between the two countries.
The Cuban leader acknowledged that his U.S. counterpart cannot unilaterally remove the economic embargo Washington has long imposed on its Cuban neighbour — this would require an act of the U.S. Congress — but he said Obama could adopt measures that would “modify” the embargo’s impact.
While exercising tight political control over Cuba’s 11 million people, Raul Castro has also instituted a wide range of liberal economic reforms since taking over as head of the Cuban government eight years ago.
These include a rapid expansion in private enterprise. By one estimate, the number of privately owned Cuban businesses — including restaurants, beauty parlours, and small taxi services — has soared from 150,000 in 2006, when Raul stepped in, to more than 460,000 today. (Source: Toronto Star)
— As It Happens (@cbcasithappens) December 18, 2014
Letter to the editor
The truth behind the new Cuba relationship – letter, December 22, 2014
Normally I’m not much of a fan of political cartoonist Graeme MacKay and his musings, but his recent offering about the new relationship between the U.S. and Cuba is bang on.
However, he should have added a tiny and insignificant billboard in the background expressing human and political rights, because that would most likely be representative of its importance during these talks.
The political talking heads and their media hacks are dutifully parroting the narrative of the importance that Raul Castro moves forward on alleged human rights abuses in Cuba. But in reality, this current round of détente is all about investment and how much each side will receive.
Fidel Castro’s “crimes” have never been about repression, it has always been his committing the cardinal sin of nationalizing foreign assets during his revolution. In Washington’s view that is considered a Crime against Capitalism (the most heinous of them all and worthy of spilling blood and treasure) and they have spent the past 50 years punishing Cuba for it.
So over the coming days and weeks, we will be subjected to a massive propaganda campaign through media editorials regarding Castro’s lack of commitment to reform. This is how the story must be framed so we can sanctimoniously reaffirm our credentials as stalwart defenders of freedom and democracy, not opportunists who value making money over making people’s lives better.
Garry Shaw, Burlington