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US under renewed pressure to end embargo on Cuba

Reporter: Owen Fairclough 丨 CCTV.com

11-29-2016 11:03 BJT

Fidel Castro outlasted 11 U.S. presidents and defied a punishing economic embargo that, according to estimates, costs Cuba around 4 billion dollars a year in lost trade. Now, the U.S. is under renewed international pressure to end this sanction, but that appears unlikely.

Castro was mobbed on a visit to New York in 1959, just months after seizing power. Less than a year later, exchanges like this dried up when Washington broke off diplomatic relations, then imposed a trade embargo in retaliation for taking control of U.S. investments. President Barack Obama and Raul Castro restored the former, but the latter endures.

“The embargo is going to end, when I can’t be entirely sure, but I believe it will end and the path that we are on will continue beyond my administration,” Obama said.

“The embargo is the most important obstacle to our economic development and the well-being of the Cuban population. That's why its elimination will be essential to normalize bilateral relations,” Raul Castro said.

The embargo has been partially eased-commercial flights and the import into the U.S. of cigars and rum have been two of the most visible changes. But the international chorus to end it completely is getting louder. The U.S. and Israel are the only two U.N. holdouts on an annual vote condemning the embargo. France wants the embargo scrapped.

“On the occasion of Fidel Castro’s death, once again I call for the embargo which punishes Cuba to be ended definitively,” said French president Francois Hollande.

The problem for Cuba is incoming U.S President Donald Trump.

“All the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro regime were done through executive order, which means the president can reverse them, and that I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands; not my demands, our demands. You know what the demands are. Those demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners,” Trump said.

And Trump has the strongest hand of any U.S. leader in years.

He will inherit a U.S. Congress dominated by Republicans. Only Congress can lift the embargo. And while there are plenty of proposals to further relax restrictions over the next two years, there are also plenty aimed at increasing them.

Fidel Castro proved it was possible to survive without trading with the world’s biggest economy. But with support from some of its biggest benefactors dwindling, Cuba needs help. Growth this year is forecast to be just half a percent.

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