In from the cold

Campaign News | Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Rob Miller CSC Direct writes on the new campaign calling for a ministerial visit to Cuba

From the Morning Star, 26 April. - US President Barack Obama has recently approved measures that will allow Cubans in the US to travel more freely to Cuba and send more money to relatives.

For many speculating in the Western media, the latest steps appear to herald the beginning of the end of the 50-year-old blockade.

Clearly we should all applaud these developments, yet at the same time we need to recognise that there is much still to be done.

In an ever-changing situation, one thing is certain - now is the time to demand more from our governments in the US and in Britain. Now is the time to push for a complete end to the inhumane and illegal US blockade.

The recent policy changes are limited. The measures were imposed by the aggressive policies of George W Bush in 2004 and their removal only takes us back to the previous position.

But the new Obama administration has perhaps laid a stepping stone that will pave the way for further positive developments.

Positive changes in the US echo other developments.

Political and cultural figures from across the globe are queuing up to engage with Cuba - the Irish and Spanish foreign secretaries, the Russians, the Chinese, the whole of Latin America, Conservative shadow foreign secretary William Hague, members of the US Congress and now Obama.

When Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin visited Cuba in February, he became the first Irish minister to travel to Cuba in an official capacity.

He recognised that "Cuba is undergoing a major transformation and its relations with the EU have entered a new phase."

In March, El Salvador and Costa Rica restored their diplomatic relations with Cuba, which had been severed soon after the revolution. Now every country in Latin America has formal relations with Cuba.

Hague visited Cuba in March. Even he joined the move towards a fresh approach by publicly urging Obama to lift the blockade.

Almost 102 members of Parliament from across the political parties have signed early day motion 1171 calling for a fresh approach in Cuba relations.

The motion, tabled by all-party parliamentary group on Cuba chairman Dr Ian Gibson MP, calls on the government to send a high-level ministerial delegation to Cuba led by Foreign Secretary David Miliband to build on Britain-Cuba relations and British interests in the region.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign is determined to increase the pressure on government to join all those around the globe who are moving towards better relations with Cuba.

CSC is using its Wish You Were Here postcard campaign to back up the EDM's calls on Miliband. The message is clear - now is the time for Britain to engage fully with Cuba without setting pre-conditions.

The fact is that Cuba is welcoming governmental visits from across the globe, including the presidents of Argentina, Chile, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

The European Union has improved its Cuba relations, as evidenced by EU commissioner for development and human assistance Louis Michel's recent visit to Havana.

A delegation of US Congress members went to Havana recently to meet Cuban President Raul Castro and former president Fidel Castro, in a clear sign that there is scope for improved US-Cuba relations.

One of the group, congressman Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, called for removal of nearly 50-year-old travel and trade sanctions.

"We've been swimming in the Caribbean sea of delusion for 50 years," Cleaver said from Washington.

"We've diluted ourselves into believing that if we isolated Cuba, the Castro regime would collapse and the US version of democracy would be established. And it has turned out that we are the isolated country because every other nation in the western hemisphere has diplomatic relations with Cuba," he said.

Cleaver insisted that "this is the time" to pursue more open relations.

"We have conservatives calling for change, we have a president saying he's looking at lifting travel restrictions for Cuban families. It's just not going to be something for us to delay."

There is even a widely supported "right to travel to Cuba" Bill that has been introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate. This Bill, if passed, would lift all travel restrictions for all people in the US.

Already in Cuba, thousands of US tourists are openly flouting the travel restrictions, confident that no action will be taken against them on their return to the US.

This month, Obama attended a summit of Latin American heads of state, where he stated that "I do believe we can move US-Cuban relations in a new direction" and went on to tell the gathering that "I am prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues."

On the fringes of the summit, where Cuba is still excluded, Raul Castro made it clear that Cuba was willing to discuss any topic with the US.

Yet at the very time that all this is happening, our own British government seems intent on hanging on to the coat tails of the failed Bush policy of interference, rather than look towards developing better relations.

The government has stated that "British ministers will not visit Cuba unless they are able to meet dissident opposition groups as well as Cuban government ministers."

This statement published in the government's report on human rights published in March 2009 can be interpreted as a clear and provocative block to better Cuba relations.

If European ministers, Hague and even US members of Congress are able to visit Cuba, then it is absurd for our government to invent reasons to oppose better engagement.

Cuba has survived 50 years of interference and aggression. Cuba has had to defend its revolution against invasion, blockade and numerous acts of terrorism against its peoples over the years.

Under these conditions, Cuba has the clear right to set its own terms of engagement with countries that have previously joined this aggressive policy.

We should all respect Cubans' right to determine their own policy at this fast-changing time. It is for the Cuban people to decide their way forward and our government should start positive engagement without pre-conditions immediately.



Contact your MP and ask them to sign EDM 1171

Contact the CSC office for Wish you were here action cards

EDM 1171 UK Relations with Cuba has already secured cross-party support from 98 MPs. The motion comes at a crucial time in relations with Cuba.

Please ask your MP to support EDM 1171 today by emailing them via

Model letters and further information availalbe at the CSC office by calling 020 8800 0155 or emailing


Gibson, Ian

That this House welcomes the fresh approach to international relations with Cuba including recent legislation in the US to lift family visiting restrictions on Cuban-Americans; notes the recent formal visits to Cuba by the Irish and Spanish Foreign Ministers and Presidents of Chile and Argentina; further notes the recent visit by the Shadow Foreign Secretary to Cuba; welcomes the fact that the UK enjoys excellent relations with Cuba in the fields of sport, biotechnology and the arts; and calls on the Government to send a high level Ministerial delegation to Cuba, led by the Foreign Secretary, to build on UK-Cuba relations and UK interests in the region.

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