By danielacmke, Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations With Cuba
Cristina Escobar – Cuba and the United States are entering a new stage of diplomatic relations. How can these relations be constructed after so many years of confrontation, and what do the recent talks between the two countries mean? These were the questions posed to Josefina Vidal, Ministry of Foreign Relations (Minrex) Director General for the United States, in an exclusive interview with Cuban television.
Josefina, there are people on the street here in Cuba, and also in the international media saying, or asking, if the United States blockade of Cuba has ended. Is this true?
Josefina Vidal – No, no, the blockade has not ended; what has happened is that the President of the United States, making use of his executive prerogatives, which he has, announced a series of measures modifying the implementation of some aspects of the blockade. It was within this context that a series of regulations were issued – mandated by him and formulated by the Departments of Treasury and Commerce – to expand travel to Cuba, expand as well allowances for remittances, and permit some commercial transactions, still of a limited nature, in spheres such as telecommunications, for example.
Cristina Escobar – When can we say that the blockade has ended? What must happen before we can say it has ended?
Josefina Vidal – Since the blockade was first officially declared in February of 1962, until 1996 when the Helms-Burton law was approved, it was the prerogative of the President; that is, just as President Kennedy had declared the blockade in 1962, a later President could have declared an end to this policy.
In 1996 the Helms-Burton law was approved, which codified the blockade as law, which means it was established that, in the future, the President could not on his own terminate the blockade policy, but rather that it was the United States Congress which had the authority to declare an end to the policy.
Nevertheless, it is very important to point out that the Helms-Burton law itself, in an appendix following the codification of the blockade, clearly establishes that the law does not deny the President his executive prerogatives to authorize, through what is called a licensing procedure, the majority of things related to the blockade.
If this were not the case, President Clinton, in 1998 and 1999, would not have been able to modify some areas which allowed for the expansion of trips to Cuba by some categories of U.S. citizens. If this had not been the case, nor would President Clinton have been able to permit, for example, the limited sending of remittances to our country, nor would Obama, in 2009 and 2011, have been able to reestablish family visits to Cuba, restore permission to send remittances to our country, or allow a group of U.S. citizens, those within 12 categories, to visit our country. And what Obama has done now, that is, using his Presidential prerogatives he has broadened the transactions, the operations which can be done within the framework of a trip, a remittance, some commercial operations, and this means he can continue to use these [prerogatives.]”
Cristina Escobar – Has he used them all?
Josefina Vidal – He has not.
Interview continues here: Josefina Vidal