"I believe that what have prompted the White House to approach Havana are the significant and irreversible changes taking place in Latin America,” Vladimir Gonzalez Quesada tells the Tehran Times.
Cuban President Raul Castro and U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Dec. 17 that they would move toward renewing full diplomatic relations by reopening embassies in each other’s countries. In a phone call on the same date the U.S. and Cuban presidents also agreed on a prisoner exchange and an easing of some restrictions on commerce.
Obama’s call for an end to the economic embargo drew resistance from Republicans who oppose normal relations with Cuba. However, Obama said he was ending a rigid and outdated policy of isolating Cuba.
Ambassador Gonzalez Quesada says Washington has realized that 54 years of efforts to isolate Havana have ended in failure and therefore it needs to change this policy to protect its "interests” in the island.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: Mr. Ambassador what finally made the U.S. and Cuba to take steps toward normalizing ties after 54 years?
A: Despite the persistent U.S. hostility towards our country for more than five decades, the Cuban government has always expressed its willingness to hold a respectful dialogue without preconditions with the U.S. for a normalization of relations.
I believe that we should ask what reasons led Barack Obama’s administration to establish a dialogue with Cuba. Among these reasons are:
First, the conviction that the policy applied against Cuba is obsolete and failed and therefore the U.S. needs new methods and means to achieve its permanent interests in the island.
Second, the U.S. is facing an increasing isolation in Latin America, which can no longer be considered as its backyard. Therefore a relationship with countries in the Latin American region is unsustainable without Cuba.
Third, the U.S. has been practicing an untenable double standard, aggressive, and hostile policy toward Cuba while establishing extensive relationship with Vietnam and China with a similar socio-political system, so why it should not take such a policy towards Cuba.
Fourth, the majority of American citizens and also the Cuban community in the U.S. support establishment of normal relations with Cuba.
Fifth, the U.S. is seeking to provide business opportunities for its commercial companies in Cuba since they had been banned to do activities in Cuba, losing opportunities for decades in favor of competitors from other countries.
Sixth and finally, the bet on the biological factor because it is known that in the coming years a major generational change in the Cuban government should take place, as the historical leadership of the Revolution would be handed to the new generation and the U.S. doesn’t want to lose the opportunity to influence it to achieve its known purposes in Cuba.
Q: Don’t you see the personality of Raul Castro and Barack Obama as the driving force for such a breakthrough?
A: Outstanding personalities always play an important role in the various processes, which is accompanied by the specific historical and socio-political circumstances.
Raul Castro represents the historic leadership of the Cuban Revolution, which has an international reputation, and he faithfully follows its principles.
Barack Obama is America’s first black president and when he came to power he made promises that could not fulfill, and as a representative of the Democratic Party he wants to favor coreligionists in the 2016 presidential elections. Therefore, he needs to do something new that enhances the image of his party and he decided to establish a dialogue with the Cuban government looking for the eventual normalization of bilateral relations, but without giving up the known U.S. purposes with the Island.
Cuba recognizes that Obama was brave to take this step, considering that everything he does in favor of this bilateral dialogue will have a strong opposition in Congress, currently dominated by Republicans, and also within some minority sectors of the American society.
Q: How do Cubans perceive the melting of ice between Havana and Washington?
A: The Cuban people in general perceive this rapprochement between Havana and Washington with hope, but also with equanimity and wisdom, as they have suffered for 56 years since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959; the consequences of the aggressive and hostile policy practiced by the U.S., especially the unjust economic, commercial and financial blockade that has been intensified despite an opposition by the international community.
For this reason, the Cuban president stated on December 17, 2014, that everything is not solved by announcing the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the U.S., because the main thing which is the economic blockade of Cuba still remains unsolved. To this must be added the exclusion of Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism made every year by the State Department and the removal of the U.S. military base in the Cuban territory of Guantánamo, which has turned into a sinister prison, as well as the end of the illegal radio and television broadcasts made from the U.S. against our country.
Negotiations between the Cuban and U.S. authorities held last January in Havana took place in a respectful and constructive atmosphere. However, we are aware that the negotiation process will be long and complex.
Q: Do you also agree with this comment that the so-called Cuba lobby, made mostly of those Cubans fleeing to America, has mostly blocked moves to normalize ties between the two countries?
A: There is a Cuban lobby in the U.S. that is in minority but influential since it has representatives in both houses of Congress, which is opposed to any attempt to normalize relations with Cuba precisely because they have benefited for years in political and economic terms. This lobby, mainly comprised of Cubans who migrated to the U.S. at the beginning of the Revolution for political reasons, will do everything within their power to hinder negotiations aimed at normalizing ties.
It is important to clarify that Cubans don’t "flee” from their country but migrate as the citizens of other countries do, for one reason or another. Most Cubans which migrate to the U.S. and other nations today do it mainly for economic reasons, not political; and once established in their new place of residence maintain good relations with their homeland and compatriots.
Q: Some analysts argue that China’s rising ambitions in Latin America and attempts by Russia to defy Washington have prompted the White House to approach Havana. Do you agree with such views?
A: Nowadays China and Russia are recognized as main international actors from an economic and political point of view. However, I believe that what have prompted the White House to approach Havana are the significant and irreversible changes that are taking place in Latin America, where the U.S. has ceased having influence in the face of increasing integration efforts in the region that prevent the U.S. to continue its traditional carrot and stick policy.
Today we can speak of the existence of organizations in Latin America like the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America - Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), favoring integration between the countries of the region without the presence of the U.S. and Canada.
Q: Would the renewed U.S.-Cuba relations have any impact on Iran-Cuba relations?
A: I don’t think the renewed U.S.-Cuba relations have any impact on the historical ties between Cuba and Iran. The Cuban authorities have initiated dialogue with their American counterparts without accepting any conditions, that is anything that affects our independence and sovereignty, neither the Revolution’s principles. Therefore, we maintain the values that have always guided our foreign policy and we will work to strengthen relations with the Persian nation in all possible areas.
Source: Tehran Times