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.