Saturday, November 17, 2012

I want to join with all peace loving friends in the global community support the United Nations' vote ...and continue to press for the lifting of the United States of America's (USA's) embargo against the government and people of the Republic of Cuba

Cuba: Time for Washington to act

By Ian Francis

It was indeed another historic vote at the United Nations when 188 nations clearly said "it is time to end the embargo". This message was clearly directed at the United States of America, which has embarked upon a policy of embargos and isolation against the Cuban regime. I want to join with all peace loving friends in the global community to support the vote and continue to press for the lifting of USA embargo against the government and people of the Republic of Cuba.

Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at
Washington should recognize and accept the overwhelming vote and immediately begin the dismantling process. The embargo has gone on too long and Washington's hawkish attitude should ease and demonstrate a more conciliatory tone. At the same time, the government of Cuba also has a responsibility to find creative and innovative ways for engaging Washington to resolve all outstanding issues between the two nations.

Given that CARICOM nations supported the resolution and the growing bilateral friendship between Havana and CARICOM states, the latter has a responsibility to press Havana on changing its hard line attitude to Washington. The cold war is over and new foreign policy engagements are essential to bring about and sustain the necessary changes.

The Republic of Cuba is part of the Caribbean and this must always be understood and accepted. Manley of Jamaica, Barrow of Barbados, Burnham of Guyana and Williams of Trinidad must all be remembered and recognized for their political courage shown in establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. These leaders were strong regionalists and in spite of the enormous pressure placed on them by Washington and the United Kingdom to isolate Cuba, they did not succumb to Washington's pressure. May these leaders continue to rest in peace. Your leadership strength will always be remembered and recognized.

Since Havana's diplomatic recognition within the CARICOM region, the Republic has had its encouraging and dull moments. The bombing of a Cuban Airline of Barbados, which resulted in the death of many Cuban nationals, is a historical moment that cannot be ignored. The Estrada affair in Jamaica, which saw former Prime Minister Eddy Seaga ordering the ambassador's expulsion and pursuing a policy of isolation against Cuba.

The 1983 Grenada conflict which led to United States military intervention resulted in the humiliation, capture and deportation of many Cuban workers from Grenada who were at the time engaged in the building of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA). In addition to the humiliation by the US military, the Republic also suffered the destruction of heavy equipment, including an aircraft that was parked at Pearls Airport on the eastern side of Grenada. These dull moments never deterred Havana's commitment to the region. The Republic of Cuba remains the largest donor of foreign assistance to CARICOM nations.

Cuba has also had some enduring moments in the region. Although Bishop's assassination was seen as a great setback for Cuba and the regional revolutionary movement, the former Grenada Mitchell administration recognized the importance of Cuba and benefits to be derived in Grenada led to a state visit to Grenada by Fidel Castro and afforded him to land at the MBIA, which was started with Cuban labour and completed with United States assistance as a result of the military intervention. Grenada has benefitted significantly from Cuba in rebuilding Grenada's health infrastructure which has been destroyed by the current NDC Thomas administration.

In my view, Cuba has proven its worth to CARICOM and, while the United Nations General Assembly vote is a step in the right direction, CARICOM nations need to expand their work by jointly telling Washington that it is time to lift the embargo against Cuba. It is not too clear if our leaders are prepared to demonstrate the leadership shown by Burnham, Barrow, Williams and Manley.

So the embargo limbo continues and it is not too certain that the hawkish State Department officials are placing any importance of the overwhelming vote. It is quite possible that many of the State Department hawks are privately saying that it is just one of the annual UN rituals outside of the General Assembly talk shop.

It only shows that Cuba-United States diplomatic relations are far from resolution and the interest sections in both capitals will continue with their allegations of diplomatic misconduct by each other.

The Republic of Cuba maintains an interest section housed in the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington. The United States maintain in a similar arrangement at the Embassy of Switzerland in Havana.

November 15, 2012