Turning Point In Cuban-U.S. Relations
By admin April 15, 2015


American President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro met in Panama City this weekend, at the Summit of the Americas. This was the first face-to-face meeting between a Cuban and an American leader in half a century. President Obama stated that “my message to people is that the Cold War is over,” while President Castro cautioned that the two countries would have to “agree to disagree” on some issues, but also that “everything can be on the table.”

The normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba has been going on for some time. Hostile relations between the two countries go back to 1959, when a revolution overthrew the U.S. – allied government of Cuba and replaced it with a communist government that has remained in place ever since. Official relations between the two countries were accordingly interrupted, until December 17th, 2014, when American officials announced that the two countries would begin talks on normalizing full diplomatic relations.

Negotiations have been ongoing ever since. President Castro has demanded that the U.S. return its naval base at Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, and tone down its support for Cuban dissidents. The U.S. government has responded that Guantanamo is not on the table, and that its support for dissidents will continue. Smaller gestures have been met with more success, such as an exchange of prisoners where an American spy jailed in Cuba for 20 years was exchanged for three Cuban spies in American custody. The biggest issue, however, is the embargo which the United States has maintained on Cuba for decades, and which the Cuban government is anxious to see lifted. Some steps in that direction have been taken already; the U.S. government has lifted several of the barriers on American citizens’ travel to Cuba. It has also quadrupled the amount of remittances that can be delivered to Cuban citizens, and eased money transfer restrictions. According to Devex Impact, these measures have already resulted in more income for Cuban citizens, used for basic everyday provisions and to support burgeoning small businesses, and increased resources for aid organizations. The Cuban government, in turn, has begun to allow more economic freedoms, allowing the increasing flow of remittances to be put to good use.

Whether the embargo can be lifted further depends partly on Congress, which passed many of the current restrictions on trade with Cuba and must approve removing them. This is unlikely as long as both houses are controlled by the Republican Party, which has historically been opposed to thawing relations with Cuba’s communist government. However, there are also politicians and businesses with a keen interest in exploring the Cuban market, and the pressure from these groups is likely to grow if Cuba continues to liberalize its economy, which means the embargo will probably continue to loosen.

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