The normalization of ties between the U.S. and Cuba has met with worldwide acclaim which we cherish
The United States and Cuba have just revealed that they will re-establish direct mail service between the two countries for the first time in more than a half century. This vista of hope is the latest sign of thawing relations between the long-time adversaries. In separate statements, the State Department of the US and the Cuban embassy in Washington said the agreement was reached during discussions in Miami, Florida. It calls for a pilot programme to provide mail flights between the United States and Cuba, rather than routing mail through a third country as had been done for decades.
It needs to be recalled that history was made on November 17 when the United States President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, in simultaneous speeches from Washington and Havana, said they had exchanged American and Cuban prisoners each had held for years. Both leaders announced that they would also open a path to increased economic and travel ties between the two erstwhile feuding countries. It was indeed ennobling seeing President Obama announcing this major shift in U.S. relations with Cuba after the Cuban leaders released Alan Gross, an American who had been imprisoned in Havana for five years.
According to Obama, “Isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach. I believe this contact will do more to empower the Cuban people.” The Cuban leader Castro on his part said: “We have decided to re-establish diplomatic relations. This decision by President Barack Obama deserves respect and recognition by our people.” Castro went ahead to call for a complete end to the U.S. economic blockade. Obama and Castro had talked by phone for more than 45 minutes on Tuesday, December 16, the first substantive presidential contact between the U.S. and Cuba since 1961.
The negotiations for the release of Gross lasted about a year. Pope Francis played a pivotal role in the exercise. Of course both Obama and Castro thanked Pope Francis, the first Latin American pontiff, in starting a dialogue between the two countries. Pope Francis had written letters to Obama and Castro, inviting them to “resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations” between the two countries.
Both countries then negotiated an agreement toward opening embassies in each other’s capitals.
Matching his words with instant action, Obama has since asked the US Secretary of State John Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. Obama said: “This review will be guided by the facts and the law. A nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction.’’
Kerry who plans to travel to Cuba at some point in the future is exultant, stressing: “I look forward to being the first Secretary of State in 60 years to visit Cuba.” The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Roberta Jacobson is billed to travel to Cuba in January to discuss the renewal of diplomatic relations. Kerry believes that as the U.S. did with Vietnam, changing the relationship with Cuba will require an investment of time, energy and resources. It is hoped that in the coming months the U.S. will also work with Cuba on such issues as migration, counternarcotics, human trafficking and the environment.
The sad dimension though is the counterpoint of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner who said: “Relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until the Cuban people enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner. … If anything, this emboldens all state sponsors of terrorism. …” Also, U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a Florida Republican who is Cuban-American, said: “The White House has conceded everything, but gained little.”
The United States had imposed a trade embargo against Cuba in 1960; thus the two countries have not had official diplomatic relations since 1961. The U.S. enacted the embargo shortly after the 1959 Fidel Castro revolution that overthrew the General Fulgencio Batista regime.
The normalization of ties between the U.S. and Cuba has met with worldwide acclaim which we cherish. It is heartening that the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he “heartily welcomes” moves by Cuba and American leaders to begin to mend relations between the two nations. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia also welcomed the thaw in relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Munoz hailed it as “the beginning of the end of the Cold War in the Americas.” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose predecessor Hugo Chavez was a close ally of Fidel Castro, said it was a “moral victory” and “victory for Fidel”. Former U.S. Secretary of State and frontline Democratic Party presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said increased US engagement in Cuba in the future should “encourage real and lasting reforms for the Cuban people. And the other nations of the Americas should join us in this effort.” For us, the re-establishment of ties between the U.S. and Cuba is a great idea whose time has come. The two neighbouring countries stand to gain much through good neighbourliness instead of bellicose actions. The world at large should learn and gain from this pursuit of peace.