Published On: Mon, Dec 22nd, 2014

Haiti plays key role in restoration of Cuba-US relations

Michell MartellyGEORGETOWN - The Office of the President of Haiti has indicated that President Michel Martelly made a contribution to the normalization of relations between Cuba and the US that led to the release from Cuban prison of US citizen Alan Gross.

“The Head of State congratulates the contribution of the Republic of Haiti, under his Leadership, in the process of negotiation, having achieved a rapprochement in the relations between the United States and Cuba, leading as well to the release of the American citizen Alan Gross,” the President’s Office of Communications said in an official statement.

President Martelly had reportedly raised the Gross matter during a visit to Cuba in 2013, following discussions with Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who thought the President’s  relationship with Cuba and the US would be helpful. Following his discussions with the Cuban authorities President Martelly signaled to Senator Nelson  Cuba’s willingness to talk to the Americans and this was communicated to the White House. US Vice-President Joe Biden subsequently called President Martelly to thank him on behalf of the United States.

Cuba had convicted Gross on espionage charges in 2009 and given him a 15 year prison sentence.  His release on humanitarian grounds, formed part of the sweeping deal to restore diplomatic relations announced last Tuesday in simultaneous statements by Presidents Raul Castro and Barrack Obama. The deal was worked out in wider secret negotiations between Cuba and the US which were hosted by Canada and pushed by Pope Francis.

The US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, two years after former President Fidel Castro and his fighters overthrew the government and established a socialist state. The Americans followed this up a year later with an almost total embargo on the island.

CARICOM Heads at the 6th CARICOM-Cuba Summit on 8 December 2014 had restated their longstanding demand for ‘an immediate end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the government of the United States against Cuba’.

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