Our Readers' Opinions
March 4, 2016
‘We welcome President Barack Obama’s planned visit to Cuba ’

Statement by the SVG/CUBA

Friendship Society

The St Vincent and the Grenadines/Cuba Friendship Society welcomes the announcement of the proposed visit to Cuba by US President Barack Obama, scheduled for March 21/22, 2016.

That visit, when it materializes, will be the first such one by an American president to its neighbouring island, since President Calvin Coolidge did so nearly 100 years ago, in 1928, to be exact.{{more}} It is the culmination of a series of steps taken by President Obama since he took office to normalize the hostile relations between both countries that have existed almost throughout the entire life of the 57-year old Cuban Revolution.

The Obama administration has relaxed restrictions on travel to Cuban by US citizens and the ban on sending remittances to relatives. This has resulted in an increase of 54 per cent in the number of American visitors to Cuba, though there are still conditions for such travel. A major step in this direction was taken last week with an agreement to restore direct flights between both countries. Major US airlines have already indicated willingness to schedule Cuba flights and it is expected that up to 110 flights a day will soon be operating the route.

In December 2014, both countries announced the normalization of diplomatic relations, implemented in the summer of 2015 and President Obama’s visit is like the icing on the cake. President Obama has followed up the announcement of his visit by again calling on Congress to support him in his plan to close the odious prison for alleged terrorists that the US maintains on Cuban soil, at Guantanamo Bay.

The maintenance of this prison, on Cuban territory illegally held by the USA, even though its lease has expired, is but one indication of continued differences between the two countries. The US also continues with a crippling economic embargo on Cuba, even punishing third countries for engaging in commercial transactions with the Cuban state.

THE SVG/Cuba Friendship Society, while supportive of measures to bring humane relations between the neighbouring countries and people, and appreciative of the brave efforts of the Obama administration in a hostile political environment, reiterates the call for the complete lifting of the embargo, endorses the plan for the closure of the Guantanamo prison, and stands with the Cuban people’s demands for the return of Guantanamo to Cuban sovereignty.

Renwick Rose

President, SVGCFS