Within a few weeks, five years will have passed after the visit of president Obama to Cuba. As it happens with many events, the pictures that circulated in the media from the very beginning of this visit, as well as the inner mechanisms of memory, have contributed to mythologize them with some sort of mark. Given these circumstances, Temas invited a group of scholars on inter-American relations from the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and particularly from Cuba, to reflect on their connotation. We are retrieving these observations because of their effectiveness to think critically and equably about some problems of today and about future scenarios.
*Published on March 21, 2016
President Barack Obama's visit to Cuba reflects and proposes a new way of formulating and executing the U.S. Cuba policy, which is different from what stands out from the current debate between presidential candidates.
Republican candidate Donald Trump, who is leading the presidential race, insists that he would have negotiated something more favorable to the United States. During her tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate, stressed her interest in a quid pro quo negotiation between Cuba and the United States. Thus, both agree on favoring a new U.S.-Cuba relationship and speak of a conditional negotiating mechanism. More importantly, however, with Senator Marco Rubio already defeated, Cuba is no longer an issue in the presidential campaign.
President Obama's new Cuba policy starts from a different premise: the United States will make decisions that reflect its values and fit its best interests, regardless of what the Cuban government does or does not do.
The key lies in whether or not the Cuban government decides to take advantage of President Obama's initiatives. For example, the United States has authorized direct mail delivery and normal civil aviation flights between airports in Cuba and the United States. Cuba has decided to reciprocate, and therefore these changes are already under way. In these cases, the U.S. decision was not conditioned in advance on Cuba changing its policy, but the change is useful to both sides only if the two governments agree to it.
Likewise, the United States has authorized important changes that would facilitate universal access to the Internet for Cubans. It also already allows travel to Cuba for any purpose of "mental" tourism (education, art, religion, journalism, etc.), i.e., not beach tourism, which can only be legally authorized by Congress. Notably, the United States lifted the economic sanctions banning commercial relations with the new private sector in Cuba. None of these measures was conditioned in advance on Cuba changing its policies.
Of course, those other decisions that Obama made can only be useful to Cuba and the Cubans if the Cuban government, in the full exercise of its sovereignty, decides to take advantage of these opportunities. Will the Cuban government grant open access to the Internet to any Cuban who wishes to consult any matter of interest to him or her? Will the National Organization of Statistics and Information (ONEI) recognize that the United States is already the second largest supplier of foreign visitors to Cuba, or will it continue to hide that fact by counting Cuban-Americans separately and classifying the rest as "Others"? Why is it statistically unmentionable that U.S.-Cuba tourism relations have improved? Will the Cuban government eliminate its self-blockade, which continues to prevent the self-employed and the cooperative sector from exporting to, and importing from, the U.S. —a trade relationship already authorized by the U.S.?
Obama has demonstrated a new way of designing his Cuba policy. Is Cuba designing a new U.S. policy?
Traduccion: Jesus Bran