SA welcomes Reestablishment Of US-Cuba Ties

DECEMBER 18, 2014

South Africa on Thursday urged the United States (US) government to move swiftly to normalise diplomatic relations with Cuba, as announced by President Barack Obama.

On Wednesday, Obama outlined a new policy of engagement that includes re-establishing diplomatic relations, easing a decade-old trade embargo and relaxing travel restrictions to the island nation.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said the African National Congress (ANC) has always used its fraternal relations with Cuba to facilitate dialogue with the US.

Spokesperson Clayson Monyela said government also welcomes the release of three of the ‘Cuban Five’.

“The South African government has consistently called for the release of the Cuban Five and the lifting of the trade embargo against Cuba. We’ve always maintained that the embargo was punitive in its nature and execution, thus making Cuba’s political ties with the international community very difficult.”

Secret talks

After 18 months of secret talks, Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in a phone call on Tuesday on a breakthrough prisoner exchange, the opening of embassies in each other's countries, and an easing of some restrictions on commerce – including allowing the use of U.S. credit and debit cards, increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cubans and allowing export of telecommunications devices and services.

The two leaders made the announcement in simultaneous televised speeches. The Vatican and Canada facilitated the deal.

Resistance

However, Obama's call for an end to the economic embargo drew resistance from Republicans who will control both houses of Congress from January and who oppose normal relations with the Communist-run island.

The US president said he was ending what he called a rigid and outdated policy of isolating Cuba that had failed to achieve change on the island.

Photo caption: US President Barack Obama greets Cuban President Raul Castro ahead of his speech at FNB during Nelson Mandela's memorial on 10 December 2013.