La Opinión (Editorial)
March 20, 2016
President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba signals an historic moment in the estranged relationship between Havana and Washington dating back to 1959. History will determine the long-term impact of this trip but whatever happens, a thaw in the relationship between the two nations is positive step.
That Raul Castro is hosting the President shows just how monumental has been the failure of U.S. embargo of the island, a decades’-old policy intended to undermine the Castro’s communist regime. This approach has been one of the biggest blunders of U.S. foreign policy in recent decades.
Reopening relations with Cuba, including a visit to the island, has always been on Obama’s agenda. His public announcement of this intention came after the mid-term legislative elections of 2014, when the political fallout from such a trip could no longer hurt him or his party.
That the trip’s timing depended more on Obama’s schedule than Cuban reality means there approachment rests more on actions by the United States than those of Cuba. An example of this is the continuing deplorable state of political rights, arbitrary arrests and lack of freedom of expression, as described by the reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. We hope that the President has meaningful interactions with the opposition.
It is clear that Raul Castro would like a relationship similar to that which the U.S. has with China, meaning an opening of the economy, tourism and investment, while all maintaining political repression and censorship. This is unacceptable. Pragmatically speaking, the island has neither the economic potential nor the consumer market of a China; and from the political perspective, such an approach is completely unjustifiable. Cuba today is one of the countries on the continent with the most limited access to the internet due to the fear that its citizens would become informed beyond the government’s accepted line.
It is absolutely time that the U.S. ends the embargo and stops special immigration privileges derived from the Cuban Adjustment Act. These are relics of the past that have no reason to exist today.
The most important aspect of the trip is not Obama’s arrival, nor a baseball game he will see with Castro, nor the speech he will give to the Cuban people. If the visit helps Cuba make progress toward a more open society, the trip will have been a success; if not, it will little more than tourism.
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