U.S. and Cuba move toward normalization, including diplomatic relations and lifting of sanctions



Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Randal C. Archibold, “Obama and Raúl Castro Meet, Making History,” New York Times, April 11, 2015.

President Barack Obama has now moved firmly toward normalization of relations with Cuba, including reestablishment of diplomatic relations and a lifting of economic sanctions. He is meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro at the OAS Summit of the Americas being held in Panama.

The move, long delayed by U.S. domestic political considerations in Florida, takes advantage of the changing views and new generations of Cuban-Americans in that state, is 30 or 40 years overdue, but welcome nonetheless.

Successive U.S. administrations never could make a convincing argument why the country should have diplomatic and trade relationships with China, while maintaing a harsh sanctions regime against Cuba.

The normalization of relations with Cuba is a move which shores up the southern flank of the United States, denying Vladimir Putin any target of opportunity for restoring military assets in Cuba, while simultaneously opening up a path toward reduced threats from Venezuela and helping in the management of relations with Nicaragua and Honduras.

Over time, the move should also help to limit the appeal, both domestic and international, of the regimes of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Cristina Kirchner in Argentina.

Within Cuba itself, these developments appear to be welcomed by the majority of the population who, if somewhat apprehensive over the possibility of everything in Cuba being bought up by the Americans, are also hopeful that restored economic relations with the United States will bring prosperity to the island.

Before 1959, Cuba was a top American tourist destination. Now, given Cuba’s highly educated population and extensive family ties with relatives in the U.S., both tourist development and U.S. business investment can be expected to take off—as fast as the Castro government will allow these to occur.

Obama deserves credit for changing course in relations with Cuba, however late that change might be. One would hope that this change signals a renewed awareness of the importance of Latin America to the United States. However, we will have to wait and see on that score.

The Trenchant Observer

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"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.