A Long Time Coming: Cuban-American Relations

New Efforts to Boost Relations, Forget Cold War Fears

NorthWest Wing | Cody Shallow | February 25, 2016

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Approximately 90 miles south of the Florida border is a land no U.S. president has visited since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. The island is notably infamous for their involvement against the United States during the Cold War, then dominated by Communist hero Fidel Castro.

President_Obama_Meets_with_President_Castro (1)
Source: White House

To provide a quick background: Until President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, the United States had strictly followed the embargo policy set by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. In 2010, long-time Cuban dictator Fidel Castro broke headlines with the statement, “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” His brother, current president of Cuba Raúl Castro, ushered a similar sentiment saying, “We reform, or we sink.” This is definitely not 1962. Then, on October 29, 2013, the United Nations General Assembly composed of 193 nations worldwide voted 188-2 against the United States’ embargo on Cuba.

The two nations who voted no? Those would be the United States and Israel. By the end of May 2015, Cuba had been removed from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. In August of the same year, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Cuba to celebrate the reopening of the United States Embassy, finally signaling a dramatic shift in the future of these two nations.

Now onto the present day: This March, on the 21-22, President Obama will visit Cuba on his trip to Argentina in order to meet with Raúl Castro and begin working towards real economic, political, and social progress in the nation. We’ve spoken graciously on the gravity of this situation, but have yet to discuss the pending implications of an American-Cuban trade agreement–a very real possibility come the end of Obama’s final term in office.

“…how do you mend relations with a nation that has consistently accused you of genocide and barbarism?”

The effects of the embargo on Cuba have been devastating, and have numerously been compared to barbaric war practice and genocide based on their awful repercussions for the already doomed-to-fail Cuban economy. Aside from the massive inflation, loss of legitimate institutions and infrastructure and a lack of technological development past the 1980’s, the embargo has cost the Cuba an estimated $1 trillion in potential economic revenue.

So how do you mend relations with a nation that has consistently accused you of genocide and barbarism?

Credit: Day Donaldson
Credit: Day Donaldson

Cuba needs America’s help in restructuring their economy more than any other nation or organization at this point in time. The Obama administration recognizes this and has demanded that Cuba continues to demonstrate progress towards a functioning democracy preceding the president’s visit. Understandably, reforming a broken society can lead to a mess of policies if one is not careful.

Castro has begun implementing small economic and political reforms over the past 14 months, as a result. What has come from these reforms, however, is a confused state: a public/private mess where individual freedom, production, and property ownership have been restored to democratic levels, but while state-run companies dominate the economic culture and a one-party state rules the land.

“If President Obama has not already left his legacy in the White House, his opportunity is now.”

President Castro has claimed he plans to step down in 2018 as to give way to fair democratic elections and remove corruption from the political culture of Cuba. The only way to continue this upward trend is consistent support from the United States and its’ citizens, as well as the support from the rest of the world. Aside from purely political or economic gains, the two million Cuban-Americans living across our nation will finally regain their homeland. For the past 55 years, no Cuban-American has had legal access to Cuba directly from the United States, but that will now change. If President Obama has not already left his legacy in the White House, his opportunity is now.