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Cuba says Obama's steps to ease embargo 'insufficient'

AFP , Monday 6 Apr 2015
US President Barack Obama (L) and Cuba's President Raul Castro (R) (Photo: Reuters)

Cuba's trade minister said Monday that US President Barack Obama's moves to ease the five-decade embargo on the communist island are "incomplete and insufficient."

With Obama heading toward a potentially historic meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro this week, Trade and Foreign Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca criticized the US leader's limited steps toward easing the crippling trade and financial embargo the United States has maintained on Cuba since 1962.

After the old Cold War foes announced a historic rapprochement on December 17, Obama loosened several components of the embargo, allowing more travel from the United States to Cuba, raising the limit on cash remittances to the island and easing restrictions on certain kinds of trade, among other measures.

"The measures Obama ordered are incomplete and insufficient, and do not change the essence of this unilateral measure taken by the US government against Cuba," Malmierca told state newspaper Granma.

He said the measures were a "step in the right direction" but did not go far enough toward ending the embargo.

Obama "has vast prerogatives -- far beyond the measures approved last January -- that he could use to make substantive steps toward normalizing bilateral relations," he said.

He called on Washington to allow Havana to use dollars for international transactions and clear the way for Cuban exports to the United States beyond the small quantities of rum and cigars that Obama allowed travelers to bring back from the island.

"Beyond traditional goods like rum and tobacco, there are others of excellent quality that can be included in this possible exchange, such as biotechnology products," he said.

Obama and Castro will cross paths at the Summit of the Americas in Panama on Friday and Saturday, which could yield the first substantive meeting between US and Cuban leaders in half a century.

The two men shook hands briefly at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa in December 2013.

To lift the full embargo, which Havana says has cost it $100 billion, Obama would need the blessing of the Republican-controlled Congress.

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