Saturday, January 03, 2009

To-Do List: Cuba

There is no question that President Elect Obama has a full plate facing him at Noon on January 20, 2009. The economy is sinking fast, both domestically and internationally, and that appears to be number one on his list of issues to address. However, foreign policy, complicated by two wars, a new flare-up between Israel and Palestine, and the overt testing of Mr. Obama's character by Russia, has to be a close second. Hopefully the new administration is prepared not only to deal with these crises, but also to put forward a new and more reality based policy throughout the world.

One area of the world the Bush administration ignored, except when it wanted to consummate a new trade deal or to destabilize a government, is Latin America. Our relations with the leaders to our south is in desperate need of repair, and I can't think of a better place to start than with Cuba, which is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its revolution.

I came across an interesting op-ed piece written by Richard Gott for the Guardian (U.K.) in which he proposes that the time is right for opening relations with Cuba.

Compared with the experience of Latin America, their half century of revolution has been a peaceful affair. Latin America fell under the control in those years of vicious military dictators, often over decades, where people were imprisoned, tortured and "disappeared". Nothing comparable happened in Cuba. Eventually civilian regimes re-emerged in Latin America, and they once again made friends with Cuba. Fidel became recognised as the greatest Latin American figure of the 20th century, an emblematic leader comparable with the heroes of the 19th-century struggles for independence.

It now falls to Barack Obama to follow where the Latin Americans have led, and to abandon the mistaken US policies of the past half century (and of the century before that). The Cuban lobby in the United States has lost its political clout, and there is now no domestic reason why an American president should not re-establish diplomatic and commercial relations with Cuba. For the black population, an Obama visit to Havana would be an especially magical time, an event as spectacular as that moment 50 years ago when Fidel and Guevara acknowledged the plaudits of the crowd: the dawn of hope.

Mr. Gott is correct in assessing that our policies over those fifty years have been sadly mistaken. Our attempt at isolating the island has resulted in poverty that need not have happened. It also ensured that some of the excesses of the Castro regime could not have been tempered because we had no legitimate way apply pressure.

For those who would argue that we have no reason to do business with the Communist regime, I would simply point to a much larger and more distant nation: China. Even Richard Nixon could see the wisdom of bringing the Chinese back into diplomatic contact with the rest of the world.

Fidel and Raul Castro are both elderly and there will no doubt be a transition to new leaders in the foreseeable future. Now is indeed the right time to initiate diplomatic and commercial relations with Cuba in anticipation of that event. Such a move will also demonstrate to our Latin American and Caribbean neighbors that we are ready to move on from our xenophobic and racist policies towards a more balanced policy in trade and diplomacy.

And, let's face it, after the last eight years we need all the good will we can garner.

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Blogger High Power Rocketry said...

: )

4:36 PM  
Blogger Karin said...

Sorry I'm a couple days late reading this...but there is a good blog devoted to this issue, authored by Steve Clemons and Larry Wilkerson, among others.

6:59 AM  

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