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