The Caribbean Community, known as CARICOM, has once more called for an end to the U.S. blockade of Cuba.
CARICOM is a group of 15 states in the Caribbean area which cooperate on trade, services, investment, crime fighting and other matters. The full member states are Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, St. Kitts, and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. Monserrat, though a British dependency, is also a full member of CARICOM. Some other small countries lacking full independence are associate members. A number of other countries have observer status including Venezuela and the U.S. dependency of Puerto Rico.
The Dominican Republic has applied for CARICOM membership, but the processing of the application has been suspended because of a Dominican court decision stripping thousands of people of Hatian descent of their citizenship.
On Monday, Dec. 8, the Fifth CARICOM-Cuba summit took place in Havana, Cuba, with Cuban President Raul Castro Ruz presiding. Such summits have been held every three years since 2002. Cuba is not a member of CARICOM. But with its 11 million people, Cubs is the largest country in the Caribbean by far. So by holding the meeting in Havana, the CARICOM member states signal their respect for the socialist island, their desire to integrate Cuba fully into the regional economy, and their very strong opposition to U.S. anti-Cuba policy.
The CARICOM Chair, Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda, said on Sunday that the Obama administration should end the “senseless” U.S. embargo of Cuba which began shortly after the Cuban Revolution of 1959, and has caused billions of dollars in damages to the Cuban economy. Because U.S. policy penalizes foreign companies which trade with Cuba and not just U.S. ones, the Cubans call U.S. restrictions “the Blockade” and not just an embargo.
In related news, six prisoners from the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, arrived in Uruguay on Sunday. The Uruguayan President, Jose Mujica, had agreed to take them off the U.S. government’s hands. President Obama has declared his intention to eventually close the prison at Guantanamo, where many observers say human rights abuses have been rife, but a problem has been finding countries to take prisoners cleared for release.
News reports in the corporate controlled press here have, for the most part, failed to mention that president Mujica had asked that, as a goodwill response, the United States free the remaining three of the “Cuban Five” prisoners being held in the United States. This could be done by a commutation of sentences or a presidential pardon, but so far there has been no response. The Cuban government has made clear that if these three prisoners were released, it would, on a humanitarian basis, free U.S. contractor Alan Gross,, who is serving a 15 year jail sentence in Cuba for having secretly introduced specialized electronic equipment designed to evade Cuban government monitoring.
Mujica had also called on the United States to free the remaining members of the “Cuban Five” who have been serving long prison sentences in the United States after being arrested for placing right wing Cuban exile groups under surveillance, and also to free Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar Lopez Rivera.