Opening Relations with Cuba

For once I am inclined to agree with something that Barack Obama has done, even if the precise manner in which he has done it may be open to question. I am referring to the president’s decision to open diplomatic relations with Cuba and to ease the sanctions which the United States has imposed on that country. Here is an account from the Washington Post.

The United States and Cuba ended more than a half-century of enmity Wednesday, announcing that they would reestablish diplomatic relations and begin dismantling the last pillar of the Cold War.

The historic move, following 18 months of secret negotiations and finally made possible by Cuba’s release of detained U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, fulfilled one of President Obama’s key second-term goals.

The decision is likely to reverberate across many political frontiers where the standoff between Washington and Havana has played a role — including across much of Latin America, where U.S. policy on Cuba has long been a source of friction.

“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” Obama said in a televised, midday address. “It’s time for a new approach.”

Saying that he was “under no illusion about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans,” Obama said he was convinced that “through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves.”

 

Americans will be permitted to send more money to Cuban nationals, use their debit and credit cards in Cuba, and bring $100 worth of Cuban cigarsinto this country. U.S. exports to Cuba will be made easier, and additional items will be authorized. U.S. banks will be allowed to open correspondent relations with banks in Cuba.

The administration also said it would launch a review of Cuba’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation it feels Havana may not deserve alongside Sudan, Syria and Iran, and would work with Congress to ultimately lift the trade embargo and other sanctions.

I think that this is an action which is long overdue. I cannot think of any reasons why we cannot have diplomatic relations with Cuba or why we should retain the sanctions against them. The Cold War has been over for more than two decades. Cuba, along with North Korea is the only remaining old style Communist country left in the world and like North Korea it is practically a failed state. Unlike North Korea, Cuba poses no conceivable threat to our interests. If it is a question of Cuba’s human rights records, well, China’s record on human rights is very nearly as bad, yet China is one of our largest trading partners. No one is even considering breaking off diplomatic relations with China and still less imposing any sort of restrictions on trade with China, even though China is a serious potential security threat to us.

The Castro brothers are in their 80’s. They won’t be around much longer. If we have some sort of relationship with the Cuban government, we may be able to influence a post-Castro Cuba towards more freedom for the Cuban people. At the very least, we may be in a better  to help if the country falls apart after Castro’s death.

I don’t know why Obama has decided on this course of action and it may be that he will not be able to open diplomatic relations with Cuba without the consent of Congress, but this is a good start. I hope the Republicans in Congress will agree to end this Cold War anachronism of isolating Cuba.

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