A top Cuban diplomat accused the Obama administration of not doing enough to dismantle the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba and said the United States wants to turn Cuba into an “appendage” of the United States.
In a half-hour interview held in conjunction with the anniversary Wednesday of the opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington, Emilio Lozada, the Cuban ambassador to Russia, told Russian television that dialogue between U.S. and Cuban leaders may have been restored, but that the “major obstacles” behind two generations of hostility remain the same.
“The United States has changed its methods, but its objectives remain the same,” Lozada told Russian television station RT. “Destroy the Cuban revolution and convert Cuba into an appendage of the United States.”
The strong language reflects the lingering tensions between the two nations. Both Lozada and U.S. leaders said they always knew rapprochement would be long and difficult, but Lozada’s strong language – particularly on such a momentous occasion as the anniversary – reflects just how tough and unpredictable the road ahead is for the two nations.
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The United States has changed its methods, but its objectives remain the same.
Emilio Lozada, the Cuban ambassador in Russia
In addition to the U.S. embargo, or blockade, as Cubans refer to it, Lozada cited the Guantanamo Bay naval base, which he described as “illegally occupied territory,” and the U.S. financing of opposition forces inside Cuba.
The U.S. State Department didn’t immediately respond to questions about Lozada’s comments, but a senior State Department official said on a call to commemorate the anniversary that the administration remains convinced that a shift from a policy of isolation to engagement is “the best course for supporting the aspirations of the Cuban people.”
Since the two countries reopened embassies last summer – Cuba in Washington on July 20, 2015, and the U.S. in Havana on Aug. 14, the United States has taken several steps to break down trade barriers with Cuba. This summer, the United States announced the addition of commercial flights to Cuba. The administration also has eliminated limits on remittances, restored direct mail and allowed American companies to sell to Cuba on credit.
We remain convinced that our shift from a policy of isolation to engagement is the best course for supporting the aspirations of the Cuban people.
Senior state department official
U.S. diplomats are meeting in Havana to sign another agreement that will enable the two governments to share information on illicit drug trafficking.
The administration has acknowledged that Congress is unlikely to drop the U.S. embargo in Cuba by the end of Obama’s term, but said administration officials hope to make enough changes that the opening can’t be reversed by the next president.
“The embargo remains in place, and Congress must act in order to end it,” said the official. “However, the administration has taken a number of steps with an executive authority to ease certain travel, commercial and financial transaction restrictions applicable to Cuba.”
But it’s clear that the Cuban government seeks more. Lozada accused Obama of not taking steps at his disposal to break down more political barriers for propping up the embargo. He did not explain what those steps might be.