November 21, 2019

Machado, talks about the blockage and the new Cuban constitution

In the photo Anna Mari Machado, the vice-president of the National Parliament of the Republic of Cuba and vice-president of the Council of State with Anton Lutter.

Talking with Anna Mari Machado, the vice-president of the National Parliament of the Republic of Cuba and vice-president of the Council of State

By Anton Lutter.

Ms. Machado visited The Netherlands for 1 day, after visiting the 141st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (global organization of national parliaments) at Belgrade. Even with her busy schedule, meeting with parliamentarians and several other officials, she made ample time to talk to Diplomatic Magazine at the same time enjoying the typical Dutch stroopwafel provided by H.E. Ms. Soraya Alvarez the Cuban ambassador in the Netherlands always in the forefront in sustaining cooperation and friendship between our two countries.

The vice-president visit coincided with the passing of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and its Member States with Cuba in the Senate, having been passed earlier in Parliament the 26th of September.

Having studied law, specializing in criminal law, Ms. Machado had a distinguished career in the Cuban judicial branch. She served as legal advisor, judge and president of the Municipal Court of Encrucijada, Villa Clara province; chaired the Popular Provincial Court of Villa Clara and was elected Deputy President of the Supreme People Court. Next to that she was delegated to the Provincial Assembly of Villa Clara and chaired the National Electoral Commission in 2010. In July she became Deputy President of the National Assembly and was re-elected, in accordance with the new Constitution, on October 10. She also serves as Deputy President of the State Council of the Republic, permanent organ of the Cuban Parliament between sessions. Interesting to know is that 53% of the National Assembly consists of women and 13% of its members are under 35 years of age.

With Ms. Machado, who is a warm, open, energetic and sharp-witted person, I discussed two important topics both to Cuba and the European Union, the blockade and the change of the Constitution.

El Bloqueo as it is known in Spanish, is a commercial, economic, and financial embargo against Cuba imposed by the United States. The United Nations General Assembly has almost unanimously condemned these sanctions since 1992 a position to be expected on November, 7.

Machado reiterates that the sanctions have a severe effect on the economy as a whole but also on the daily lives of the Cuban people. The economic effects are estimated to be $ 1.2 billion a year on the US economy, yet on Cuba the embargo has cost more than $ 750 billion up until now. For instance, tourism by US tourists – a major source of income – is being restricted as well. As of June this year the US announced a US ban on cruise ship stopovers by Americans on the island and just this month the US will be revoking existing licenses for US companies leasing aircraft to Cuban carriers, and will deny future applications for aircraft leases in a move to hit the Cuban tourism industry.

But the most important thing according to Machado is that personal lives are hard hit by these sanctions which have strengthened under the current US administration. It has resulted in shortages of the basic needs, including bread, eggs and chickens, but also cuts in fuel and energy are the result of broad US sanctions. Other aspects of the sanctions concern the investor and bank activities in dealing with Cuba of which the cap on remittances have damaging effects on people’s lives. However, the Cuban people are used to decades of sanctions, their strength and positive outlook on live will overcome these sanctions, as Machado firmly states.

It is clear that the European Union has a completely different policy towards Cuba, which is based on political dialogue and economic cooperation. 5 years ago European Union started normalization of relations with Cuba ending its Cold war -era policies.

Europe as a whole is the second most important trading partner and source of import. As recently as last September EU High Representative Federica Mogherini offered financial aid to support reforms to attract foreign investments to Cuba. And of course many Europeans visit Cuba every year as tourists and enjoy the culture, food and music.

Another topic of interest are the changes made to Constitution of Cuba which has been enormously supported by the popular vote in a referendum, February 2019. More than 6.8 million Cubans (90+ %) voted in favour of the constitutional change, after being debated for over a year by the Cuban people – including youth – as Machado mentions, who came up with thousands of suggestions and proposals of which many were incorporated in the final draft.

One of the changes in the Constitution is the explicit right to private ownership, including foreigners, but without actually constituting a capitalist system. Machado: This change supports the already practice of about 500.000 Cubans are the proprietors of small businesses. The Constitution stipulates that within 18 months’ new laws have to be instituted to reflect the change of the Constitution. Anna Mari Machado: “we have huge tasks in front of us considering the enormous changes but also opposing the Blockade and creating awareness amongst the European public about this great unjustness. Also important for Cuba is to work with Europeans on every topic which can be of common interest, including investment relations.”

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