This is a pretty big deal:
President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced plans to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba and ease economic restrictions on the nation, an historic shift he called the end of an “outdated approach” to U.S.-Cuban relations.
Obama said he’s instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to re-establish diplomatic relations, and that the U.S. will re-open an embassy in Havana. The administration will also allow some travel and trade that had been banned under a decades-long embargo instated during the Kennedy administration.
There are aspects of the embargo that Obama can’t undo because they were encoded into law when it was feared that Clinton might normalize relations with Cuba. Related to this are the release of about 50 political prisoners in Cuba, including Alan Gross and at least one US intelligence asset who has been in prison for 20 years. Apparently, the Vatican and Canada played a role in bringing this about.
As you can imagine, this is drawing a lot of fire from Cuban-Americans and Cuban-American politicians:
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer he would do everything in his power to block any potential U.S. ambassador to Cuba even receive a vote.
He also called the easing of economic restrictions “inexplicable” in a statement.
“Appeasing the Castro brothers will only cause other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang to see that they can take advantage of President Obama’s naiveté during his final two years in office. As a result, America will be less safe as a result of the President’s change in policy,” he said.
Rubio promised that as incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee he’ll “make every effort to block this dangerous and desperate attempt by the President to burnish his legacy at the Cuban people’s [sic] expense.”
I have long been in favor of lifting the embargo. For 53 years, it has accomplished nothing. The vile Castro brothers have kept their brutal police state in place while becoming extremely wealthy. Meanwhile, average Cubans are among the poorest in the hemisphere, despite past support from the former Soviet Union and ongoing support from other socialist and communist idiots. It’s not like we don’t have relations with vile regimes like China or Saudi Arabia.
Will this cause “reform” in Cuba? I’m dubious, especially as the embargo is only partially lifted and most American businesses will not be able to open shop in Cuba. But I’m also aware that the Castros are in their 70s. Even assuming that they live for much longer, their rule is going to become increasingly fragile. Trade and travel between the two countries can hasten that day by loosening the absolute political and economic power Castro has over his citizens. But even if it doesn’t, it is long since time we abandoned this stupid and destructive approach.
We’ll have to see what happens. But overall, I think this is a good step. The most encouraging sign to me is the number of liberals lamenting that capitalism is going to take over Cuba.
Good Lord, we can only hope so.