Last update: 08-Dec-2013 4:55 am
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Embassy official admits: Embargo risks for T&T businesses in Cuba
The United States economic embargo against Cuba is making it difficult for T&T companies to do business on that island. Ana Silvia Rodriguez Abascal, charge d’affaires of the Cuban Embassy in T&T, admitted this yesterday during a media briefing in Port-of-Spain at which she highlighted the problems the embargo was creating for Cuba and its neighbours in the Caribbean.
“There is a trade surplus in T&T’s favour between the two countries but many times the United States has shares and interests in T&T companies and it is difficult for them to do business with Cuba. However, if there are local companies without US interests or shares then they are free to come to Cuba. There is also difficulty as to how payments will be made,” she said.
Rodriguez said the embargo also discourages tourists and professionals from T&T from visiting Cuba: “There are many nationals of T&T that want to travel to Cuba and some ask that the Embassy not stamp the visa in the passport because when they go to the US there will be problems. This is another impact of the blockade preventing business people and companies from doing business there.”
She noted that Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, on behalf of Caricom, has called for an end for the US economic embargo against Cuba, calling it an anachronism. “Right now T&T has the chairmanship of Caricom. Although Caricom speaks as one voice on the issue, each member state votes individually at the United Nations” Rodriguez said.
The embargo, which has been in place since 1962, began as a partial commercial, economic, and financial embargo. In 1992, the embargo was further strengthened by the Cuban Democracy Act, which turned it into a law designed to maintain and strengthen the restriction of information and good exchange between the US and Cuba. Restrictions were tightened again in 1996, when Congress passed the Helms-Burton Act, which prevents private citizens from doing business in or with Cuba.
Last year the vote at the UN General Assembly was overwhelming, with 188 nations—including most of the US’s closest allies—supporting the end of the embargo. According to the Cuban Government, the embargo over the last 12 months has cost the country roughly US$3.9 billion. Rodriguez expressed her appreciation to T&T and other Caricom nations for their support for Cuba.
“We have to take into account it is not the same as bigger countries. We must also take into account the vulnerabilities of the Caribbean economies. We know for a fact the pressure that the US Government exerts on small countries for them to vote at the UN Assembly in favour of the embargo. But we recognise the long standing support of the Caribbean people,” she said. Rodriguez said US President Barack Obama has been a disappointment and it is “more of the same” as previous presidents who had maintained the embargo.
“The reality is that after five years, the policy of Obama has been characterised by the maintenance of the blockade against Cuba. We are ready to talk to them (the United States) as equals,” she said.
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