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International 27 Jan, 2020 Follow News


The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski is on the list of 84 Cuban hotels deemed off limits to Americans

International Airlines arrive at Havana Airport

Cuba is bracing for further economically stifling measures by the Trump administration which is threatening “maximum pressure” against Havana.

The communist-ruled island, just 90 miles off the coast of the US, had just started adjusting to new economic possibilities after former president Barack Obama relaxed some of the stringent sanctions which have in place for over six decades.

But in an abrupt reversal, President Trump reinstated them, setting Cuba back and a triggering a new series of steps designed to strangulate the country into submission to US demands.

President Trump has accused Cuba of human rights violations and for supporting the government of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, against whose government - and country - the US has slapped a full economic embargo.

And the US squeeze on Cuba is now set to tighten even further.

Despite calls in the UN General Assembly for it to end or at least relax the embargo on humanitarian grounds, the Trump administration is now threatening to intensify the pressure.

Still, it appears that Cuba is hardly likely to yield.

It hasn’t since the US imposed an arms embargo against the Fulgencio Batista regime in 1958. That was extended to a full trade embargo in 1962 by President John F Kennedy at the height of the Cuban missile crisis with late leader Fidel Castro and the-then Soviet Union.

Six decades, eleven American presidents and three Cuban leaders later, the country might be facing its most difficult challenge under the US-imposed economic challenge.

From its first tentative steps towards market reform, an avenue opened by ‘the Obama detente’ in 2015, investors who were then considering investment possibilities especially in the tourism and industrial sector, are now putting Cuba off-limits, at least for the time being.

Their major worry is the risk of penalties from the US for violating the US embargo whose tentacles extend beyond American companies to placing restrictions on foreign corporations doing business with the US.

Now, the Trump administration is now talking of exerting “maximum pressure” on Cuba this year.

The details have not been disclosed but judging from recent actions against it by President Trump any further clampdown could be even more severe than previous measures.

The US is now talking of specifically targeting, even more than before, those sources of revenue which bring foreign exchange into the Cuban economy and government treasury.

Already the economic effects are being felt on the ground with many shortages being reported.

Cuba’s main benefactor Venezuela is hardly in a position to maintain its concessionary energy supplies to the island under an arrangement in which Cuba reciprocates with healthcare and other humanitarian support.

Venezuela itself is struggling to cope under the weight of US-sanctions - and its own self-inflicted economic woes.

Another festering issue surrounds the Organisation of American States(OAS) of which both Cuba and Venezuela are members.

The upcoming election this year of the organisation's Secretary-General is proving to be another flashpoint, and Cuba is in the crosshairs of how the US on this as well.

There are already splits between the US on the one hand, and Cuba, Venezuela and several Caribbean countries on the other, over the two main candidates.

The US favours retaining the current post-holder, Uruguayan Luis Almagro, while Cuba, Venezuela and some Caribbean states are pushing for Ecuadorean Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, a former president of the United Nations General Assembly.

In fact, Ms Espinosa Garces was nominated by Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

One point of friction revolves around a suggestion that her nomination came via the “influence of Cuba and Venezuela”, an assertion rejected by her Caribbean proposers.

This further puts Cuba in the firing line US foreign policy as the issue has led to charges by some Caribbean governments that the US was involved in divide and rule tactics judging from heads of state not invited to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo when he visited Jamaican a few days ago.

Mr Pompeo was concluding a swing through a selection of Latin America and the Caribbean countries promoted as building relations.

However, that was interpreted in some circles as promoting their preferred OAS candidate and ostensibly isolating those countries not towing America’s regional and global foreign policy agenda.

With the US now becoming more strident in setting out its foreign policy priorities and preferences in the Latin American and Caribbean region - more stick than carrot according to some observers - how Cuba copes from this point onwards in the shadows of a Trump White House is left to be seen.

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