Finally, some welcome news on US-Cuba relations

In a move that is long, long, long overdue, the US government has taken steps to begin the process of normalizing relations with Cuba. These moves were the result of 18 months of secret talks facilitated by the Vatican and pope Francis

The sanctions imposed on Cuba were incredibly cruel, causing suffering to the people just because that nation defied US imperialism by overthrowing a brutal dictator that it had supported and thus angering those Cubans and Americans who were profiting from the misery of its people. When Fidel Castro in response went for socialism and closer ties with the Soviet Union, that sealed the antagonism of the US. How dare a tiny country that is so close to the US decide to choose an economic and social system that was at odds with what the US demanded? And thus was set in motion five decades of economic warfare on that tiny country along with numerous attempts at subversion and attempts on Castro’s life. But Cuba and Castro never gave in.

Though the Obama administration had been making cautious noises in this direction for some time, they had not done much that was concrete and the circumstances under which this move occurred were a bit strange to say the least. The announcement was accompanied by the exchange of one unnamed US spy supposedly held in Cuba for 20 years for three Cuban spies

Alongside this was the release of Alan Gross who had been held in Cuban prison for five years for spying. The US government kept insisting that Gross was some naïve do-gooder who was being held captive for no reason, and US media dutifully repeated this story to show how cruel the Cubans were, when there were many indications that Gross was engaging in at least quasi-espionage activities in Cuba. Even the heart-wrenching stories of how Gross was seriously ill and on the verge of dying seem to have been false.

Of course, the backlash in the US has already begun, with right-wingers denouncing this move as yet another sign of Obama’s willingness to capitulate and they will try and block full normalization that requires congressional legislation, such as lifting the embargo on Cuba which still remains in place. They will try and garner the Cuban-American vote by portraying even these limited moves as a sell-out, but the old guard anti-Castro Cubans are dying out and the younger generation has little interest in waging their parents’ war.

Obama has to be commended on taking a more realistic view.

“We recognise that some members of Congress will strongly disagree with what the president is announcing today, but this will be an ongoing dialogue … We believe a policy of engagement will be more effective.”

“It is clear that decades of US isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba,” added the press secretary, Josh Earnest, in a written statement.

It is nice to have some good news to report.


  1. David Wilford says

    I’m also heartened by the willingness of Raul Castro to open the door to the U.S., and hope that when both he and Fidel are gone from the scene that there’s a peaceful transition to a more democratic government in Cuba.

  2. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford@1,

    Yes indeed. We can also hope that when Obama is gone from the White House, there’ll be a peaceful transition to a more democratic government in the USA. But it seems very unlikely.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    David Wilford: Yeah, but there’s every reason to be snarky about political freedoms in the US. And I hope Cuba can avoid the pitfalls of capitalism insinuating its tentacles into politics.

  4. tecolata says

    Also, the three remaining Cubans prisoners -- the last of the Cuban Five -- either are being or will be released. Unlike Alan Gross, they truly did act out of patriotism, not money. The jury of millions has spoken.

  5. lorn says

    Well … Obama does get something wrong. He said: “It is clear that decades of US isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba,” . All true except for the stability part. Cuba has been, by regional standards, very stable.

    IMHO the US should have swallowed hard and normalized relations with Cuba and Castro in ’59’ or ’60’. Cuba under Batista was a cross between a whore house and slave labor camp. The mafia had taken over the coasts and there were few human rights for anyone not connected to the administration or mafia. Castro cleaned up Cuba. I’ve Cuban friends who hate Castro because their family had their land, property taken and were loath to live in a socialist/communist nation. A common lament seems to be: ‘We left with nothing’. They spoke of the good times before the revolution but betray their own complicity in corruption by bragging about how servile and compliant their maids, gardeners, and nannies were. Life was, evidently, very good if you were on top. At least one went on to express dismay as to why the poor would revolt.

    That they did, with many dying in the process, speaks volumes. They were clearly not feeling the good times in quite the same way.

  6. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford@3,

    As I think Rob Grigjanis@4 realised, I was not being snarky about human rights in Cuba: I’m well aware of the ways in which they are violated by the Cuban regime, as well as its undeniable achievements. But one of the most egregious human rights violation on that island at present is the existence of a prison camp set up with the specific purpose of enabling people to be held without trial and tortured, out of the reach of legal remedies. Obama promised to close the camp, but has not done so.

  7. Nick Gotts says

    I might add that I’ve never forgiven Fidel Castro for trying to kill me* in 1962. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, he urged Khruschev to launch a nuclear attack on the USA, which would have started World War 3.

    *And everyone else -- but that just makes it worse :-p

  8. samgardner says

    I heard this reported on a far-right Christian radio show last night: they focused on the objections of Marco Rubio, who “speaks for many Cuban-Americans”. Really? Somehow I have my doubts.

  9. says

    I highly doubt the motivation behind “normalizing relations”. How much do American business interests plays a role in this? Many wealthy Americans still bristle at how Cuban communists nationalized the wealth that was obtained through questionable business practices under Batista’s fascist regime. The US views Cuba the way mainland China views Taiwan.

  10. says

    samgardner: Rubio does indeed speak for “many” Cuban-Americans; I have no doubt of that. Just as I have no doubt that advocates of normal US-Cuba relations speak for many more Cuban-Americans.

  11. says

    How much do American business interests plays a role in this? Many wealthy Americans still bristle at how Cuban communists nationalized the wealth that was obtained through questionable business practices under Batista’s fascist regime.

    That’s a good point. But by the same token, normalized relations could also create more jobs for ordinary Americans, as well as more opportunities for big biz. (And if many of those jobs are created in the South, that could be good for Democrats in 2016 and after.)

  12. Sean (I am not an imposter) says

    I thought this might be too good to be true. “normalizing relations” just means they are establishing diplomatic ties, nothing more. The sanctions which are codified in multiple US laws will remain, as will barriers to travel and communications.

    Interesting article from Raul Castro:

    This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been solved. The economic, commercial, and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease.

  13. lorn says


    Taking Cuban relations off the table is going to undermine GOP control of the Cuban populations and allow immigration and immigrant issues, race and labor, to come to the fore and shift the population to the left. Florida is a purple state. If the Cuban population shifts left it takes the entire state with it. This would be a massive political shift.

    One of the key constituencies behind the embargo of Cuba were sugar producers. Cuba could produce sugar as lower cost than farms in the US. With increased environmental concerns causing the closure of farms in the southern US the companies are now looking at Cuba as the new sugar bowl. Both sides benefit. The US gets cheap, almost locally produced, sugar. Cuba gets to sell sugar in the US market where sugar sells for more than pretty much anywhere else.

    Insurers are looking at Cuban doctors and nurses as an alternative to expensive, and cranky, US medical professionals. Medical tourism is already a thing in Thailand and Taiwan. Cuba seems ideal.

    A lot of very wealthy people are dreaming of making Cuba the ultimate winter vacation spot.

    And the beat goes on.

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