Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 23rd 2015 Contents APRIL 2015 • WEEK FOUR www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG19
Undoubtedly, both Pres-
idents Raul Castro of
Cuba and Barack
Obama warrant credit
for breaking the 54-
year-old barrier to the
establishment of diplo-
matic relations between
their two countries. But, President Obama
deserves greater praise because he took greater
risks and bucked strong opposition in the
United States Congress and from the anti-
Castro Cuban-American community whose
political clout is not insignificant.
He also showed considerable courage in
removing Cuba from the US State Depart-
ment s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism
(SSOT) on April 14. He has been flayed by
leading members of the Republican Party,
including many of the presidential hopefuls.
Republican Senator, Marco Rubio, a Cuban-
American, who is also a Presidential aspirant,
said Cuba should remain on the terror list,
adding that "The decision made by the White
House is a terrible one."
Even the influential Wall Street Journal
newspaper, in an April 15 editorial, scathingly
criticised Obama s Cuban diplomacy, saying
that it "has been one unreciprocated offering
after another from December s pledge to nor-
malise relations to the global legitimacy he
bestowed by meeting Cuba s dictator to this
free terror pass."
The editorial went on to speculate, unap-
provingly, that its readers shouldn t be surprised
if the President s lawyers are "inspecting the
terms" of the US lease of Guantanamo Bay
so as to return it to Cuba.
Successive US Presidents have maintained
the US diplomatic cold shoulder and none has
sought to remove Cuba from the SSOT list
since it was imposed in 1982. Not even in their
last terms in office, when they had nothing
to lose, did any President try to tear down the
wall between the US and Cuba.
It is clear that Obama is a man of history
which he has already made and is continuing
He has sought---and is seeking---to put a
gentler, more tolerant face on American foreign
policy. He cannot do this on all counts. There
are theatres of conflict, particularly involving
ISIS, that require stern action. But, it should
now be without question that Obama s Pres-
idency has given the United States a more
acceptable countenance globally and more
particularly in Latin America.
Even with Venezuela where relations con-
tinue to be sharp over sanctions placed on
several Venezuelan officials for alleged human
rights violations, Obama has tried to offer an
Prior to the Summit of the Americas in
Panama on April 10 and 11, he dispatched a
senior State Department official, Tom Shannon,
to talk with Venezuela s President Nicolas
Maduro and Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez.
Two national security officials also publicly
declared that the US had "no hostile designs"
on Venezuela, and Obama took the time to
meet Maduro privately in the margins of the
Panama Summit. Afterwards Maduro is report-
ed to have said that the conversation was "cor-
dial, serious and frank" and could lead to the
establishment of new diplomatic discussions
to "respectfully open up relations in the next
Obama s Caribbean policies give govern-
ments in the region less to rejoice about. While
the people and leaders of the Caribbean are
delighted with the fact of Obama s Presidency
of the United States and regard him as a symbol
of their own capacity for achievement, there
is disappointment that he has not done enough
to help them economically.
Right now the classification of the Caribbean
as a high-risk area for financial services and
the listing by the US State Department of all
15 Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries
as either jurisdictions of "concern" or "major
concern" for money laundering are causing
indigenous and offshore banks to lose corre-
spondent relationships with banks in the US.
Without such relationships these banks will
be unable to conduct international transactions,
threatening their survival with dire conse-
quences for Caribbean economies.
This matter was raised by Antigua and Bar-
buda s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, speak-
ing for Caribbean leaders at their encounter
with Obama in Jamaica on April 9.
Obama promised to investigate the issue,
particularly when Browne pointed out that all
of the assets and transactions of the Caricom
financial institutions do not add-up to 0.1 per
cent of the global total.
What will come of this is left to be seen,
but having opened a direct line to Obama on
this matter, it is up to Caribbean leaders to
ensure that he is provided with the hard evi-
Caricom countries can take some satisfaction
from Obama s Cuban policy. When only Cana-
da and Mexico maintained diplomatic relations
with Cuba in the Western Hemisphere, it was
Caribbean countries that led the way in estab-
lishing such relations in defiance of the US
embargo. They have also long called for the
full normalisation of relations between the
two countries as a matter of principle.
However, normalisation of US-Cuba rela-
tions has implications for Caribbean countries.
Cuba is already a major competitor in the vital
tourism industry. The number of Canadian,
European and Latin American visitors to Cuba
is greater than that of tourists to any Caricom
In part, the larger number of visitors to
Cuba is due to the fact that its prices are
cheaper because of lower wages for workers.
Now, with Cuba off the SSOT list, the country
will benefit from a number of things, including:
eligibility for US foreign assistance and human-
itarian aid; elimination of Private Right Action
(meaning that the statutory authorisation for
individual US citizens to pursue private claims
against Cuba in US courts would be eliminated,
thereby facilitating trade, banking and inter-
national financial relations without the poten-
tial fear of asset seizures); the elimination of
a rule requiring publically-traded companies
to disclose to the US Securities and Exchange
Commission their dealings with Cuba; and
finally, the elimination of State divestment
laws (some US states have laws or policies
prohibiting investments in companies doing
business with blacklisted countries).
Of particular significance to the Caribbean
should be that, once the US Congress approves
the delisting by May 29, Cuba will become
eligible for loans from the World Bank and
other international financial institutions. Cuba
will have the capacity to absorb such loans
that will rapidly improve its infrastructure and
its attractiveness for investment. This empha-
sises the importance of Caricom countries
sharpening their own policies and working
harder across the board to maintain their com-
By the end of Obama s Presidency, his
courage and foresight could leave a more
durable relationship between the US and Latin
America. Cuba is well on the way to benefitting
from his Presidency. The rest of the Caribbean
should work to ensure they are not the orphans
of his legacy.
(The writer is a senior fellow at London
University and an international relations
Orphans of Obama's legacy?
FILE PHOTO: US President Barack Obama, left, greets Cuban President Raul Castro before giving his speech at the memorial service for late South African President Nelson.
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