Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit says while he is giving a nod of approval to the steps by United States of America (USA) to normalize relations with Cuba after more than half a century, Dominica will continue to press for the removal of the trade embargo on the Spanish-speaking island.
“While we aware improvements have been made, gains have been made, changes have occurred but we shall continue to press for the removal of the blockage, while at the same time recognizing the positive steps that have been taken by the USA,” he said on state-owned DBS Radio on Monday. “So I think we have to assist the USA in taking that decision and let the world understand that sanctions are not always the way to go and we always believe that through dialogue, diplomacy, much more can be achieved.”
The coldness between the two countries has its roots in the 1950’s when Fidel Castro came into power and bitter arguments, political grandstanding and the occasional international crisis ensued.
Diplomatic relations ended in 1961 when then President John F. Kenenedy, imposed the trade embargo on Cuba which restricted trade and exchange.
But things took a turn for the better when President Barack Obama recently announced that Cubans living in the USA could visit and send remittances to their families and easing but not removing the 47-year-old economic embargo on the island.
On August 14, Secretary of State, John Kerry made a historic trip to Cuba to reopen the US embassy in Havana; the greatest symbol yet of the warming of relations between the two countries.
Skerrit said the reopening of the embassy in Cuba by the Americans and the opening of the Cuban Embassy in US by the Cubans, is “a great sign of the improvements of relations between the US and the Republic of Cuba.”
“It is something that I believe that the entire world community, with the exception of a few countries, has been calling for and more so within the Caribbean community, Dominica included. We have been calling on the USA to normalize relations with Cuba,” he noted.
The Prime Minister commended the US President for “his very strong leadership in that regard because it is very clear that he was the one who has been leading the charge in respect to the normalization of relations,” adding that the USA has recognized that its position on Cuba is not on the best interests of either countries and the world.
“Normalization of relations is one thing and it is one step,” he said. “We still have the blockage in place and it is a matter that has been receiving the attention of the United Nations for several years now. There have been numerous votes at the UN and they have been overwhelmingly almost unanimous support expects two or three countries in any given year who have supported the maintaining of the blockage against Cuba.”