John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, and Foreign Minister of Cuba Bruno Rodriguez have had closed-door discussions. The discussions have been around removing the island country from the list of terrorism sponsors. If this were to happen, it would re-open embassies in both countries. The two reportedly engaged in a long and productive conversation. The plan is to continue to work with Cuba to resolve issues, as well as to renew the relationship with the U.S. This is making history because the U.S. has not had a positive relationship with the nation in over 50 years, but President Obama is reaching out.
President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro are going to meet on the sidelines, during the Summit of the Americas in Panama. This is in the spirit of President Obama’s promise that there would be “a new chapter” in relationships. Obama had also ordered a review of Cuba’s status, concerning their terrorism support status, which has been confirmed to have been completed.
There is an obvious political rift between Obama and Castro; however, just by sitting down and talking, they will make history. The last time a United States president met with a Cuban leader was when President Eisenhower and Fulgencio Batista, Cuba’s leader spoke face to face over 50 years ago. This is ground breaking for the relationship between the U.S. and the Communist island.
President Obama will verify that Cuba is no longer on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, an issue since 1982. Obama wants to prove to Castro that he keeps his word, and is willing to restore the relationship. Castro agrees that coming off the terrorism list is a precedent in moving forward, even though he does not believe they belonged on the list in the first place. The list of other countries that are accused of funding global terrorism are Sudan, Iran and Syria. Cuba was put on the list in 1982 because they offered safe harbor to militant ETA Basque separatists as well as Colombian Farc rebels.
This decision and potential truce that would enable America to begin to build a relationship could also ease financial restrictions on the Caribbean Island’s access to aid and loans. If Obama accepts the recommendations of the state department, Congress would be allowed 45 days to either accept his decision or override it. Cuban-American Senator Ted Cruz is against this relationship building idea all together.
President Obama defends his Cuban policy by saying America cannot continue to live in the past. “When something doesn’t work for 50 years, you don’t just keep on doing it. You try something new.” Bringing the two countries together again would change history in a huge way, one which could benefit both countries.
Most of the Islanders want a relationship with the United States, and with this hope comes great expectations. Their hope is that if there are closer ties between the two countries and the embargo comes to an end, it will help to stimulate their economy. However, the people are doubtful that the diplomatic easement will bring political transformation to the communist country.
A poll of the residents of Cuba is evidence that the people are not happy with their political system. Residents are eager to bring the U.S. embargo to an end and they are disappointed with their state-run economy. If given the chance, over half of the island’s population would leave the country. It has been over 50 years and definitely time to make a change between the U.S. and the island that has been isolated for so long.
By Jeanette Smith