Friday, April 17, 2009


Relations between Cuban and the U.S appear to be thawing after forty-eight years of tension following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Senior officials from both nations struck a conciliatory tone President Barak Obama, speaking from Trinidad at the Summit of the Americas said "[t]he US seeks a new beginning with Cuba." Earlier Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded favorably to Cuban leader Raul Castro's offers of talks on "everything". The change of tone comes after the new U.S administration eased travel restriction to the Communist island.

That a better relationship would be in the interests of both countries has long been the consensus of foreign policy experts, it was a move advocated by Henry Kissinger in the 1970's. However, the large number of anti-Castro Cubans in the critical swing state of Florida has left past Presidents unwilling to address the issue. Relations that were strained when Fidel Castro's rebel movement toppled the regime of American backed dictator Fulgencio Batista broke when the U.S launched terrorist attacks, and later an invasion, of Cuba and the Cuban government responded by placing Soviet missiles 90 miles from the American coast. Although relations have improved slightly since the 1960's they remain cold, unnaturally cold.

The U.S's Caribbean neighbor represents a significant export market, which despite its proximity is dominated by European firms, and the U.S represents for Cuba a new source of tourism. Obstacles remain, but there are enough common interests to proceed with a normalisation of relations. For decades the U.S has supported and sheltered terrorists operating against Cuba while listing Havana, without explanation, as a state sponsor of terrorism, banned most Americans from even visiting the island, blocked trade, and excluded the nation from regional bodies. For its part Cuba sided with America's Cold War foe and sheltered fugitives from the mainland. But the Cold War is over. It is time to move forward in the spirit of cooperation with a common interest. For the past hundred and twenty years the U.S's policy towards Cuba has been disgraceful, a shift, even if only for strategic reasons is a needed improvement and one that will set the stage for future dialogue and normalisation with other states.

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