Returning Guantanamo Bay to the Cuban government isn’t part of the deal in re-establishing relations between the United States and the Havana government, an Obama administration official testified Wednesday.
After Raúl Castro called publicly for the return of Guantánamo Bay to Cuba, the US officials insisted the base’s status was not being negotiated in diplomatic talks.
Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that returning Guantanamo Bay and the U.S. base there “is not on the table in these conversations.”
Raúl Castro has also asked for a lifting of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and compensation from the United States for damages to his country before the two nations can normalize relations.
Castro and Obama on 17 December made a surprise announcement that the two countries would work to ease diplomatic relations. The first objective is to re-establish mutual embassies and appoint ambassadors. Both the US and Cuba currently maintain diplomatic offices in the Swiss embassies of their respective countries.
Republicans, and some Democrats, on the House foreign affairs committee expressed deep skepticism over President Barack Obama’s plan to un-do more than a half-century’s worth of trade, travel, and diplomatic restrictions on Havana.
“Instead of dismantling a 50-year-old failed policy, as it claims, the administration may have given a 50-year-old failed regime a new lease on life to continue its repression at home and militant support for Marxist regimes abroad,” said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the committee chairman.
Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J., who came to the United States from Cuba in 1962, echoed Royce’s sentiments.
“I always felt the embargo and the pressure on Cuba would lead to some changes in Cuba,” Sires said. “I don’t see what we negotiated where it’s going to lead to anything. It’s just beyond me that a signature on a piece of paper somehow relieves these dictators of these pressures.”
Jacobson defended the administration’s approach, saying the old U.S. policy toward Cuba “failed to empower the Cuban people and isolated us from our democratic partners in this hemisphere and around the world.”
“The president’s initiatives look forward and are designed to promote changes that support universal human rights and fundamental freedoms for every Cuban, as well as changes that promote our other national interests,” she said