HAVANA – Ending the decades-old U.S. economic embargo is a top priority for Cuba on the one-year anniversary of the resumption of full diplomatic relations, a senior official said Wednesday.
In an interview with Communist Party daily Granma, the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s North America director, Josefina Vidal, said the process of fully normalizing bilateral relations would be “long and complex” and could only occur if the embargo, imposed in 1962, is eliminated.
Vidal, the island’s chief negotiator since the U.S.-Cuba thaw began in December 2014, added that the embargo’s “dissuasive and punitive components” still were having a negative impact on Cuba’s economy.
President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba in March was “an important step” toward improving relations and an opportunity to present the island’s position on “priority” and sensitive issues on their bilateral agenda such as human rights, she said.
Asked how much more Obama can achieve before leaving the presidency in January, she said Cuba was looking to see him use all executive powers at his disposal to change existing U.S. policy and ensure the continuity of this new bilateral stage.
“In short, (the president) can do much more to make the process irreversible going forward,” Vidal said of Obama, whose administration has already taken steps such as restoring direct postal service between the United States and Cuba and giving U.S. airlines approval to provide service to the island as early as the fall.
Referring to the impact the upcoming U.S. presidential election would have on the bilateral dialogue, she said the island was hopeful the next head of state would heed the wishes of the U.S. public, adding that Americans support the shift in policy toward Cuba by “a very wide margin.”
On July 20, 2015, the two former Cold War enemies culminated the initial stage of their bilateral thaw by upgrading their respective interests sections to embassies.