HAVANA – The new measures easing sanctions and approved on Friday by U.S. President Barack Obama give more benefits to the U.S. than to Cuba and the Cuban people, the General Director for America of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba said.
Josefina Vidal, who has been the most visible Cuban face in the process of normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries, told a news conference in Havana that the measures are “positive” but very limited in nature, while parts of Obama’s presidential directive have interventionist aspects.
This was the first reaction of Cuba after Obama issued a directive that is intended to seal its open policy towards Cuba and make it “irreversible,” accompanied by a new relaxation of the embargo to boost medical cooperation and help improve the island’s agriculture and infrastructure.
“The document does not hide the purpose of promoting changes in the political, economic and social order, nor hides the intention to further develop interventionist programs,” Vidal said.
Still, Vidal acknowledged the importance of the new directive since it recognizes the Cuban government as a “legitimate and equal partner” as well as “the benefits that would accrue to both countries and peoples to achieve a relationship of civilized coexistence while large differences exist between the two governments.”
Regarding the ability of this policy to curb a possible reversal of the thaw after the next presidential election in the U.S., she said it contains guidelines that can be “useful” if the next U.S. administration is willing to continue the rapprochement with Cuba.
Vidal also praised the new relaxations of the economic embargo, but opined that they’re limited in nature because most of them only broaden or deepen previous concessions.
She stressed that direct investment by U.S. companies is still prohibited except in the telecommunications sector, along with imports of Cuban products, especially those from the state sector, the primary sector of the national economy.
The official also stressed that the financial sector has not yet adopted the new measures and restrictions remain on Cuban banks trying to open accounts at U.S. bank branches.
The measures approved on Friday by the U.S., which constitute the sixth round of easing of sanctions and will take effect on Oct. 17, include the promotion of joint medical research projects between U.S. and Cuban citizens, and imports of U.S. and Cuban pharmaceutical products.
They also allow authorized Americans to provide services related to the development, repair and maintenance of infrastructure services in Cuba and exports from the U.S. of items such as pesticides and tractors.
In addition, the restrictions that prevented certain foreign vessels that had entered Cuban ports from entering the U.S. have been removed for purposes of loading or unloading within 180 days, and the curbs put on American travelers bringing back Cuban rum and tobacco for personal use will be lifted.