Donald Trump’s administration maintained a hostile attitude towards Cuba in 2018 and took new steps away from the normalisation of bilateral relations, despite the U.S. parties interested in improving ties.
Martha Andrés Román
The renewed intensifying of the embargo imposed by Washington on the Caribbean nation over 55 years ago, the decision to reduce personnel in the respective embassies, the continued paralysis to authorising visas in Havana, and attacks articulated against the island in different political spaces are all examples of the North American government’s position on Cuba.
At the beginning of March this year, the U.S. State Department announced that it would definitively maintain the reduction in personnel at its embassy in Havana.
In the press release issued this same day it was specified that the number of employees remaining in the legation would be similar to the number maintained after the exit order given on 29 September 2017 when Washington withdrew over half its civil servants on the grounds of health incidents reported by their staff.
This announcement was made despite the statement in the same document that no definitive conclusions had been made about the source of these health incidents reported by the diplomats, which the Trump administration has nevertheless branded as attacks even though their causes and/or those accountable remain unknown to this day.
This decision by the State Department undermines years of progress towards normalising relations with Cuba.
At the same time, the federal agency stated, also on 2 March, that it was maintaining the much criticised level 3 Travel Advisory warning (out of a maximum of 4) for Cuba, despite the results of a survey carried out amongst U.S. travellers qualifying the island as one of the safest destinations in the world.
The level 3 warning advised travellers to reconsider any plan to visit the Caribbean nation on the grounds of the risk of health incidents, and it was detrimental to U.S. citizens’ visits to the largest island in the Antilles chain, where they are still banned from entering as tourists.
More than 5 months went by before the State Department lowered the advisory warning to level 2 (take additional precautions) on 23 August, the same type of warning in effect for travel to neighbouring islands.
The matter of health incidents was tackled in Washington by a multidisciplinary team of nine Cuban specialists who met with medical professionals from the State Department on 13 September.
During their trip to Washington DC, they had discussions with members of the U.S. National Academy of Science. The Cuban specialists emphasised that they did not received new information about the case which has considerably marked bilateral relations under Trump’s administration, and many claim that it has been politicised by Washington.
Added to this is the continued instrumentalisation of human rights matters on the part of the North American government to justify widely criticised policies against Cuba, like the embargo.
On 16 October, the United States mission to the United Nations staged an event in the hall of the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council in order to attack the island on issues such as human rights and raised the matter of an embargo against Cuba, which was rejected by almost everyone present.
For their part, Cuban diplomats identified this siege as the greatest violation of the Cuban people’s human rights, and indicated that the U.S.A. should make a public apology to the world for the crimes committed in the name of the country against humanity.
A few days later, on 1 November, the North American government received once again overwhelming condemnation in the U.N. when the international community was near unanimous (189 of 193 member states) in voting against an embargo.
This same day, Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton increased the hostility towards Cuba and Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Bolton announced that Washington would extend the list released a year earlier of Cuban entities that U.S. citizens are prohibited from engaging with. The list has grown to include 205 entities and subentities restricted for North Americans and the State department asserted that it would continue updating the list periodically.
Arbitrary is what Cuba has called this list, formed of a range of entities supposedly linked to the defence and national security sector.
In the middle of this wide panorama, groups and individuals in Washington and different states around the country have not ceased their efforts, considering it important to make progress with the rapprochement which was began by both countries in December 2014 with the aim of advancing to a state of normalised relations. (PL)
(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – Email: email@example.com)