Obama just keeping campaign promise: Cuban speaker

May 13th, 2009 - 12:42 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Havana, May 12 (EFE) The speaker of the Cuban parliament Tuesday said US President Barack Obama’s decision to end restrictions on Cuban-Americans’ travel and remittances to the island was rooted in Washington’s domestic politics.
“What he did has nothing to do with Cuba,” Ricardo Alarcon told reporters, “it was an electoral promise he made during the campaign.”

“He made it (the promise) in Miami, it helped him win Miami for sure, and Florida,” he said.

Obama “has been characterised up to now by his attempts to fulfill the promises he made and that was one of them, it was a promise to the voters of South Florida,” Alarcon said.

He added that Cuba is not expecting “any real gesture” from the US government.

About the possible elimination of a ban on Cuba accessing a US undersea fiber-optic cable that runs near the island, the parliament speaker said that Obama “did not mention that, as he didn’t speak of (raising) the (economic) embargo.”

He recalled that Obama spoke of the possibility of authorising US telecom companies “to access” the Cuban market, but “on what terms” still has to be specified and regulated, the politician said.

Almost with one voice, Latin American leaders - including US allies such as Mexico’s Felipe Calderon - are calling on Washington to end its 47-year-old economic embargo on Cuba.

But Obama appears unwilling to even consider scrapping the embargo unless Cuba releases the estimated 205 political detainees serving prison terms in Cuban jails and makes other moves toward democratisation.

President Raul Castro has publicly offered to free political prisoners in exchange for the five Cuban intelligence agents serving time in the US for espionage, and Alarcon said Monday that Obama has “a magnificent opportunity” to put an end to the case against the five.

Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino and Fernando Gonzalez were arrested in Florida in September 1998. A federal court in Miami judged them guilty of undermining US national security and sentenced them from 15 years in jail to life imprisonment.

Cuba has acknowledged that the five “heroes” are intelligence agents, but says they were sent to South Florida to spy on the Cuban exile community in the wake of terrorist bombings on the communist island that were allegedly masterminded by Miami-based anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles.

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