While the village dispute in Guatemala over the Order of the Quetzal (the Guatemalan unit of currency) to Fidel Castro was sinking to lower and more depressing levels, something important was taking place in the international sphere related to Cuba. Without major waves, a North American senator was making a revolutionary proposal that would be able to modify dramatically the U.S. trade embargo against the island. Richard Lugar stressed the categorical failure of the embargo because, instead of achieving democratic openness, what it did was strengthen the communist regime.
This proposal is nothing special except for the fact that the person who suggests it is a member of the same Republican Party that led to power George W. Bush, who, in the last eight years, deepened restrictions against Cuba. Who would imagine that a self-criticism so severe would arise from the same Republican party and give backing to Barack Obama’s promise of revising his policy toward the island. “After 47 years, however, the unilateral embargo on Cuba has failed to achieve its stated purpose of bringing democracy to the Cuban people,” expressed Lugar during his presentation of the report titled “Changing the policy towards Cuba in favor of United States national interest,” prepared for the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
That document was written by a group of Lugar’s advisors who traveled to Cuba between the 11th and the 14th of January in order to interview authorities of the Cuban government, diplomats, journalists, religious leaders and representatives of civil society. In the report it states: “(The embargo) has not benefited our agenda of national security since Cuba stopped being a credible threat against the security of the United States.” That solitary sentence throws overboard the North American policy of the past decades because it proves that the policy does not make sense and has been led more by the interests of the Anti-Castro lobby in Miami.
The report is very direct in signaling that the Obama administration should begin to treat Cuba like they treat other countries and proposes that the “change” occur before the Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Trinidad y Tobago between the 17th and the 19th of April. It is clear that the authors of the report would not have been able to ignore the unprecedented coming together that has placed Havana with Latin America and distanced it from the United States during the last eight years. The risk for Washington would be to magnify that distance throughout the entire sub region.
Nevertheless, the end of the blockade will not be something that occurs overnight. In a very discrete way, a group of congressmen have submitted bills that will try to lift all the travel restrictions on North Americans to Cuba. The House of Representatives and the Senate knew of similar bills between 2003 and 2004, but Bush’s veto threats halted them. Now it is different, since Lugar, who is very close to Obama, is one of the sponsors and knows very well that he would be able to rely on the new government in the blink of an eye. In this way, the day is not far away when the embargo against Cuba will be like the Berlin Wall–only an obscure memory of the Cold War.