By: Danielle Apfel
It has been President Obama’s goal, since this past December, to revamp US-Cuban relations and move forward from the Cold War era mentality. This “thawing” would reintroduce diplomatic relations between the two countries, which has not occurred since 1961 when Fidel Castro was first in power.
For over 50 years, the US has had a firm stance on relations with the Cuban government- no relations at all. There has been little to no travel between the countries and a full economic embargo against Cuba, which entails banking and commerce restrictions. With Obama’s new goal of reviving the US-Cuban relationship, these restrictions have been reduced in the last half-year. Some travel has occurred, prisoners have been exchanged, and there has been progress in working through the stark differences between the two states.
Secretary of State John Kerry and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Eduardo Rodriguez have been working together, along with their respective teams, to come to a better understanding between the two countries. They have been compromising and wading through the various controversies over governing, rights, land, and trade. However far these representatives still have to go, they undoubtedly made progress today.
As of earlier today, the Cuban embassy has officially been opened in Washington D.C. and the Cuban flag has been raised in the US State Department building. The Cuban flag now stands alongside all other countries with which the US has diplomatic ties. Plans have been put in place for the official opening of the US embassy in Havana, Cuba on August 14th. Secretary Kerry is set to appear at the opening and raise the American flag. This will be the first time that the American flag will wave in Cuba in 56 years.
Though the reopening of embassies implies a progressive move towards better relations, there is still much to discuss and figure out. While this has been an important move for President Obama and his administration, he does not have the full support of Congress- as per usual.
There are many Congressmen and women who are against reviving relations with the Cuban government, as the Castro regime does not appear to be making any concessions towards instilling a more democratic regime. Nor does their government appear to be losing any sort of political control.
For many, it is difficult to understand the desire to reinstate ties with a government that does not allow for many of the freedoms that the citizens of this country take for granted. The Castro regime does not provide many of the basic rights innate to Americans; freedom of expression, independent journalism, or access to information. Furthermore, there are a large number of political dissidents arrested per year, as the government does not allow for much in the way of assembling or protesting.
While US representatives strive to instill these basic rights for a nation now with diplomatic ties, Cuban representatives are more inclined to push for the reduction of embargoes and the recapture lost land.
There is still a long way to go in working out over 50 years worth of differences, but it is refreshing to see that both sides are working to do so. The Cold War may have ended over 20 years ago, but it is evident that issues still persist.