WASHINGTON – The bipartisan coalition “Engage Cuba,” an organization supporting an end to the U.S. embargo on the island, on Tuesday officially began its activities in Washington to promote policies to foster an opening toward Havana and increase the pressure on Congress for legislation to that effect.
The group also launched a new television advertisement that will be run on some of the main U.S. TV networks – Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC – to emphasize the obsolescence of the restrictions that exist regarding Cuba and which prohibit Americans from traveling there and doing business on Cuban soil.
The 30-second ad spot entitled “Guess what?” insists that Americans are free to travel to any part of the world except Cuba and that some $5.9 billion in annual U.S. exports are being blocked by the current system.
“At best, there were good intentions at that time (when the embargo was put in place in October 1960), but 54 years is enough,” James Williams, the group’s president, told Efe with regard to the duration of the embargo.
Williams said that companies, collectives and individuals from the political sphere involved in Engage Cuba are aware that work must continue to bring about an end to the big obstacles imposed on the island and it is time “to take advantage” of the current bilateral normalization process between the two nations.
“We’re looking for Congress to work to lift ... the prohibitions on travel and trade,” he said, emphasizing that the Cuban case is bringing together people from very different sectors in a common cause.
Williams said that Engage Cuba will try “to raise its voice on the issue” and educate the different communities about what is happening on the Caribbean island, including via state-to-state campaigns.
After U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement about his decision to normalize relations with Cuba last December, the two countries have held several rounds of talks to discuss assorted matters including the reopening of embassies in the two capitals, a measure that appears to be imminent.
“No, there’s no way (this will backslide). There are matters on which U.S. citizens are much farther along than the politicians and this is one of those,” said Williams regarding the many surveys showing that the U.S. people are in favor of the rapprochement.
Although the road will be long and lifting the embargo requires the approval of Congress, Williams said he was optimistic that lawmakers’ support can be obtained for the move.