Lift blockade, Tories William Hague urges Obama

News from Cuba | Friday, 20 March 2009

From the Times Online

The Conservative leadership has called on President Obama to lift the half-century-old American blockade of Cuba, in an attempt to pressure the Communist regime to change its ways.

William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, became the first senior British politician to visit Cuba for many years this week, holding talks with the new foreign minister and other senior figures.

He found that far from weakening the hardline Communist tendencies of the Cuban Government, the American blockade was continuing to reinforce them, and was being used as an excuse by ministers for the poor state of the economy and the locking up of dissidents.

Mr Hague believes that the election of Mr Obama, who has suggested a fresh approach to foreign affairs in other areas such as Iran, could provide the opportunity to change the long-standing stance on Havana.

Mr Hague told The Times last night: “After nearly half a century it is time to try a different approach. The embargo seems to reinforce the hostility of Cubans to the United States and the lifting of it would remove the excuses used by the Cuban leadership to justify poor economic performance and human rights abuses.

"If the US open up to Cuba, the Cubans would need to open up to the rest of the world in terms of creating property rights, a market economy and economic freedoms. It would pose a greater challenge to the Communist leaders of Cuba than leaving it in force.”

Mr Hague will have a chance to put his case to the Administration when he sees Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, in Washington in the next few weeks. It is not yet known whether David Cameron will see Mr Obama when he comes to Britain for the G20 summit at the end of next week.

Mr Hague said: “This is a moment for fresh thinking in foreign policy.” Lifting the blockade has recently won support in the United States from leading Republicans as well as Democrats.

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