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US-Cuba policy to be set in stone in weeks - US Embassy

Published:Friday | December 19, 2014 | 12:16 AMGary Spaulding
Polacheck

The United States Embassy in Kingston yesterday indicated that, with the historic announcement by US President Barack Obama out of the way, all is now clear for Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, to flesh out diplomatic issues with Cuba.

"She will be leading a high-level delegation to Cuba in the coming week, to begin the discussions for establishing full diplomatic relations and the exchange of ambassadors," said Joshua Polacheck, counsellor for public affairs at the embassy. "That's the first step."

Polacheck told The Gleaner that the second element of the Obama administration's move towards full diplomatic relations would be focused on commerce and movement of people.

Bureaucratic steps

"Right now, the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) is going through the bureaucratic steps to immediately implement this, which takes a few weeks," he said.

"So none of the announced changes will take effect until the regulations are issued, but it's (in) the coming weeks; we are not talking months or years," he said.

Polacheck said the embassy was happy CARICOM has embraced the announcement by Obama.

"As the president has said repeatedly, this is a new approach to the policy of trying to promote democracy in the region."

Secretary-General of CARICOM Ambassador Irwin LaRocque said the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba and the move towards the re-establishment of diplomatic ties were welcomed.

"CARICOM has long been an advocate for the normalisation of these relations and has raised the issue repeatedly in its interaction with both parties," said LaRocque.

He noted that as recently as December 8, during the fifth CARICOM-Cuba Summit, the Community reiterated its call for Cuba to be fully integrated into the hemispheric arrangements and for the lifting of the US economic, trade and financial embargo.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com