Thursday, April 16, 2015

U.S. vs. Cuba – Finite

How quickly 50 years of enmity has subsided. Recognition announced December 17, 2014, and on April 10, 2015, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama shake hands and sit down for the first substantial meeting in more than 50 years.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul
Castro at the Summit of the Americas on April 10, 2015 in Panama City
(Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
As opposed to many of President Obama’s recent foreign policy initiatives, the rapprochement with Cuba was immediately welcomed by Americans who believed the policy of isolation had failed.
Although there are dissident voices on the U.S.’s shift on Cuba due to the island’s continued record of human rights abuse, even the majority of Cuban Americans, who left Cuba due to the Castro regime or are the decedents of that tenth of Cuba’s population, approve the opening of relations with Cuba.
Polls since the December decision confirm both Americans and Cuban Americans support the change in relationship.
Still, recent polls show the public divided on their views of Cuba with a favorable rating improving, but not yet half the public in positive territory (48% Gallup, Feb. 2015) and most people skeptical that the overtures will lead to more freedom for the Cuban people (60% about the same, 32% more democratic, Pew)

Most interesting due to the lack of data, a stealth poll just out from Cuba shows the island’s inhabitants may be the most famished for a new relationship.
  • 97% of Cubans interviewed believe normalization would be good for Cubans
  • 64% believe it will change the economic system, but 54% believe the political system will remain the same
  • 96% favor ending the embargo
  • 89% believe President Obama should visit Cuba
One tertiary benefit of the shift in American policy was the positive reception it received at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama. The meeting of 35 countries represented in the Organization of American States (OAS) was the first since Cuba’s 1962 expulsion (which the U.S. barely secured with opposition of six countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico) with both the U.S. and Cuba present. Even though the suspension of Cuba was lifted as soon as Obama took office (June 2009), Cuba refused to participate in the OAS.

Although regional Marxists still bemoan the slow pace of ending Cuba’s embargo and American capitalist-orientation; i.e., the use of trade and investment to promote open markets and civic space, in general, America’s position is enhanced in Latin America.

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