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President Obama In Cuba

With Obama’s visit to Cuba, the normalization of ties between the U.S. and Cuba should be seen as great progress in human understanding between ideologically opposed nations

it was indeed historic beholding President Barack Obama of the United States landing in Cuba on Sunday. The fear that the US and Cuba will remain parallel lines that can never forever meet has been killed for good. Cuban President Raúl Castro has met with Obama even as both leaders are yet to reach agreement over human rights and political freedoms.

This is the first visit of a U.S. President to Cuba in 88 years, to wit, since well before the Communist revolution of Fidel Castro almost six decades ago. According to media reports, the statements of Presidents Obama and Raul Castro “after three hours of meetings evolved into a un- predictably revealing joint news conference, in which both underscored how far the two longtime adversaries have come in restoring relations while also laying bare the remaining obstacles to deepening ties.” It has been a long process of coming to reconciliation with the United States reopening its embassy in Cuba last year, more than 54 years after it was closed.

It was indeed a very symbolic step signalling the warming of ties between the erstwhile estranged countries. John Kerry who achieved the milestone of be- coming the first US Secretary of State to visit Cuba in 70 years presided over the ceremony in Havana, Cuba. The US flag was presented by the same US marines who brought it down in 1961.

Cuba had reopened its embassy in Washington in July, 2015. Even as both countries are coming together for- mer Cuban leader Fidel Castro blasted the US for not lifting its trade embargo. In an open letter, Castro said the US owed Cuba millions of dollars because of its 54-year-long embargo.

Curiously, Castro’s letter made no mention of the reopening of the US embassy. Kerry who described the hoisting of the flag as a “historic moment” however warned that the US would not stop pressing for political change in Cuba, stressing: “The people of Cuba would be best served by a genuine democracy, where people are free to choose their leaders.” History was made on November 17, 2014 when the United States President Barack Obama and Cu- ban 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.

This marked the end of more than a half-century of diplomatic isolation wrought in the course of the Cold War. 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 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 frst 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.

The United States had imposed a trade embargo against Cuba in 1960; thus the two countries have not had offcial diplomatic relations since
1961. The U.S. enacted the embargo shortly after the 1959 Fidel Castro revolution that overthrew the General Fulgencio Batista regime.

With Obama’s visit to Cuba, the normalization of ties between the U.S. and Cuba should be seen as great progress in human understanding
between ideologically-opposed nations. It is of course obvious that Republicans in America are opposed to any reconciliation with Cuba but they should be seen as still living in the past. Obama has made a major step forward that must be supported by progressive humankind.

The way to go is the coming together of erstwhile opposing nations. The example of the US and Cuba should lead the charge towards a lessd
belligerent world. President Obama has put his footprints solidly in the sands of time. It is incumbent on Obama to pull his fellow Americans
long towards respecting the rights of Cubans in the long march of friendlier relations.

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