Cuba forced to suspend US consular services

As a new Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans and even higher proportion of Floridians support re-establishing relations with Cuba

THE Cuban Interests Section in Washington, D.C., has suspended consular services for the second time in less than three months because it has not been able to find a U.S.-based bank to handle its transactions. The Cuban government said Friday, Feb. 14, in a statement:

“In spite of the ​​huge efforts made, as a result of the restrictions in force, derived from the policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade by the U.S. government against Cuba, it has been impossible for the Interests Section to find a U.S.-based bank that could operate the bank accounts of the Cuban diplomatic missions.

“As a result thereof, the Cuban Interests Section finds itself forced to suspend consular services as of the date of publication of this press release, until banking services are re-established. As informed last November, consular services will only be provided for humanitarian cases. The Section regrets any inconvenience this situation may cause to Cuban and U.S. citizens who may require the services of our offices, with the negative impact on family visits, academic, cultural, educational, scientific, sports and other types of exchanges between Cuba and the United States.”

M&T Bank decided to sever its relationship with Cuba last year, but agreed to continue processing its banking through March 1 and accepting deposits through Feb. 17.

In a statement quoted by the Associated Press (AP) and published in the Washington Post, the U.S. State Dept publicly blamed Cuba:

“We are disappointed in this action, given that we had helped the Mission identify a workable solution to its consular fee-processing needs with ample time for its implementation,” spokesman Noel Clay said. “That the Cuban Interests Section has not effectively pursued this option will result in hardship to Cuban and U.S. citizen travelers alike.”

The statement whitewashes the criminal 50-year U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba. According to the duplicitous logic of the US State Dept., the Cubans did this to hurt the Cuban economy and bring “hardship to Cuban and U.S. citizen travelers alike!”

The same AP report, however, provides facts to the contrary:

“An estimated 557,000 U.S. travelers are expected to visit Cuba in 2014, according to one estimate by the Miami-based Havana Consulting Group. Analyst Emilio Morales has projected that they will bring with them some $2 billion. Morales said Friday he estimated 40,000 U.S. travelers would visit in March and again in April. On average, they spend about $3,100 per person — a collective $124 million each month.”

Since 1997, both countries have operated Interests Sections under the legal protection of the Swiss embassies. The Interests Sections allow Cubans and Americans to request travel documents such as visas and passports, among other services.

On February 11, the Atlantic Council, a NATO advocacy group of the U.S. ruling elite, released a Gallup poll showing that a majority of Americans and even higher proportion of Floridians support re-establishing relations with Cuba – 56 per cent of Americans and 63 per cent of Floridians. The NATO poll did not include direct questions on the blockade.

The AP reported that “The results fall in line with previous polling of Americans on U.S.-Cuba relations. Gallup polls conducted since 1999 have found a majority favour re-establishing U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba. For more than a decade, about half of Americans have also favoured ending the trade embargo.”

It also cited a four-year-old 2011 poll of the Cuban-American community in Miami-Dade County in Florida by Florida International University that found 56 per cent favour continuing the embargo, a noticeable drop from 1993, when 85 per cent said they favoured tightening the embargo.

According to the 2014 Gallup poll, sixty-two per cent of respondents nationwide said they supported allowing American companies to do business in Cuba. Sixty-one per cent said they support removing all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens. In Florida, that number was six points higher, at 67 per cent.

Seventy-seven per cent nationwide said they support diplomatic coordination on issues of mutual concern. In Florida, again, the number was higher, at 82 per cent.

The Obama anti-Cuba, anti-Latin America policy that must be condemned is not even supported by the American people.

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