December 10 2014
By Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero© December 10, 2014
InformacionAlDesnudo – Correspondent Puerto Rico
The United States needs to overhaul its Cuba policy.
The United States can work with Cuba to tackle the urgent global challenge of the Ebola virus. Cuba stepped up to the plate early on, training doctors and nurses and sending a number of them to West Africa. Over the years, it has dispatched 185,000 health professionals to 103 countries to treat people for free. In fact, Cuba currently has doctors working in 32 African countries.
In recognition of Cuba’s contributions, Havana was chosen as the location of an international summit meeting on the Ebola crisis last October. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent an official. Cuba’s efforts against this disease have drawn praise not only from the World Health Organization, but also from Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Powers, and the editorial page of The New York Times.
Havana and Washington can work together to fight this epidemic, but such a collaboration would be possible only if the United States closes its Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which entices Cuban doctors working abroad to defect and seek asylum in the United States. This program risks undermining the effort to fight Ebola in Africa, and is also an impediment to a rapprochement between the two countries.
The United States can move to heal relations on other fronts. It should consider swapping U.S. citizen Alan P. Gross, in jail in Cuba since 2009 for smuggling communications equipment, for the three Cubans currently in American prisons for espionage. The three were convicted in 2001 of spying not on the U.S. government but on Cuban exile groups, some of which have had a violent past. Amnesty International has questioned the impartiality of their trial.
And the United States needs to lift the more than 50 years old trade embargo on Cuba. There is lot of political support for this move, even within the Cuban exile community.
The Cuban government has taken positive steps that the Obama administration should acknowledge. Cuba liberalized travel last year, and now almost all Cubans can travel outside the country. Approximately 20,000 Cubans are authorized to migrate out of the country every year.
President Obama, for his part, has also taken some positive measures. In 2009, his administration made it easier for Cuban-Americans to travel to the island and to send remittances.
But he needs to go much further. The time to normalize relations with Cuba is now.
Etiquetas: Carmelo, eng