The Director General for the United States Division at the Ministry of Foreign Relations (MINREX) of the Republic of Cuba Josefina Vidal gave an exclusive interview to the website of the Cuban people against the blockade, where she highlighted key elements about the continuty of the U.S blockade and other aspects that affect the process toward the normalization of the relations between Cuba and the United States.
CUBAVSBLOQEO: From December 17, 2014, many media internationally, and even some spokesmen for the White House, have been trying coining the term “normalization”of the relations between Cuba and the United States, however, the Cuban Government insists it´s a process “toward normalization. ” Why?
JOSEFINA VIDAL: Because there are still many outstanding issues whose solution will take time, as it will require the removal of laws, policies and practices inherited from the period of open hostility and confrontation which characterized the U.S. projection toward Cuba for more than five decades.
To have normal relations someday, it will require, among other issues, the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade; that the territory illegally occupied by the United Stated at the Naval Base at Guantanamo will be returned to the Cuban sovereignty; to amend the preferential immigration treatment that the U.S. granted to Cuban citizens, expressed in the policy of dry feet-wet feet, the Cuban Adjustment Act and the Parole Program for Cuban medical professionals; finally to put an end to illegal radio and television broadcasts and the attempts to use information and communication technologies with political objectives against Cuba; and the elimination of subversive programs to promote changes in our domestic law, which decision only concerns to Cubans.
CUBAVSBLOQEO: The blockade remains one of the outstanding issues to be resolved, with strong bids in the U.S. Congress in favor and against its lifting, though as well you have said, there has been progress in the political and diplomatic spheres, cooperation and dialogue on issues of bilateral and multilateral interest between Cuba and the United States. What should Cuba have to do to accelerate the dismantling of this policy and what would correspond to the U.S. government?
JOSEFINA VIDAL: In Cuba, there aren´t discriminatory measures toward the U.S. companies, which can participate in the business opportunities offered by Cuba on the same equal basis that those companies of other origins have. In that sense, Cuba has been taking advantage of the limited spaces created, resulting from the adoption by the government of President Obama, of a group of measures to modify the implementation of some aspects of the blockade. However, steps taken by U.S. in this regard are positive, but still insufficient. The laws of the blockade and tens of restrictions arising from this policy remain in force and hinder even the implementation of the measures already approved.
The U.S. president can still make a more extensive use of his executive powers to modify other regulations of the blockade and thus make an important contribution to its dismantling. And, of course, it will be necessary that the Congress votes in favor of lifting the blockade to finally bury this policy and move toward the normalization of economic and trade relations. After, other steps forward should be done by the U.S. in order to have truly normal economic ties, like the granting to Cuba of preferential treatment in trade, as the most favored nation status, and the revision of laws that set high fees for the entry of Cuban products in the U.S. market. As you see, there is a lot to do.
CUBAVSBLOQEO: What do you think about the campaign through the website www.cubavsbloqueo.cu that is linked to #YoVotoVsBloqueo label to mobilize people for the vote against the blockade?
JOSEFINA VIDAL: I think it has been an excellent initiative to view with real examples the effect of the blockade and its harmful effects. We must continue making awareness among the Cuban population and the rest of the world that, despite the reestablishment of the diplomatic relations and the progress in this area, and in the cooperation on issues of mutual interest, the truth is that the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade continues in force, it continues causing damage to Cuba and its people, and it´s affecting our relations with other countries because of its extraterritorial scope and even the interests of the U.S entrepreneurs themselves.
The use of the website www.cubavsbloqueo.cu,where people can exercise their vote against the blockade, has been a very good idea, as well as the #YoVotoVsBloqueo label to highlight our messages on this important issue on the Twitter platform. It will be worth disseminating them more widely.
CUBAVSBLOQEO: In December 2015 you created an account on Twitter, which has gained followers very quickly and continues to grow every day, especially among the U.S audience. You are often quoted by the Cuban media and the international press. What incited you to explore this new digital communication platform? Do you consider that it´s possible to gain influence over Cuba-US relations by offering information and argument through these means?
JOSEFINA VIDAL: At present, communication is increasingly important for any kind of activity, including the sphere of foreign policy, where communication is essential to spread out the position of Cuba to the broadest possible audience. Today, no one can deny the importance of being present in the social networks, through which more and more people are informed. And the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has increasingly been incorporating these spaces. Thus, like other Cuban officials and diplomats, I have also understood the utility of using this platform as an effective way to help bring the messages and the truth of Cuba to the Cuban, U.S. and foreign audience, particularly with regard to the relations with the United States, including the blockade and its harmful effects.
CUBAVSBLOQEO: At the end of his presidential term, Barack Obama will take with him to have been the U.S. president who drove the restoration of the Cuba-United States relations. In addition to the announcements and limited measures since December 17, 2014, what more could he do before leaving the White House?
JOSEFINA VIDAL: He could take further measures in the exercise of his executive powers to modify other aspects of the blockade. For example, he could allow more U.S. exports and the importations of Cuban products in the United States, allowing U.S. investments in Cuba and taking steps to normalize the financial relations between the two countries, like the authorization of the opening of the correspondent accounts of Cuban banks in U.S. financial institutions. In addition, he could also put an end to the preferential migration policy regarding Cuban citizens and take effective action to eliminate subversive programs against Cuba.
CUBAVSBLOQEO: And after Obama?
JOSEFINA VIDAL: After Obama, we hope that whoever occupies the White House, has a policy that reflects the consensus of the public opinion of the U.S. citizens, including the Cuban emigration in that country, in favor of the improvement of relations with Cuba by a wide margin. Regardless of what happens in the United States after the presidential election next November 8, Cuba will continue with its plans, with the support of the great majority of its people and other nations of the world, who reject unilateral and coercive measures like the blockade, and recognize the prestige earned by our country, as a result of resistance, dignity and contribution to the peace, the stability and the development of many nations.