Cuba-US: The Rediscovery of the Americas

Historic. The event is accompanied by a volley of adjectives and a concert of praise. When he announced, with worldwide media resonance, the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, did Barack Obama finally reach the culmination of his twofold mandate? He certainly didn’t fail to explore several other ways. Before declaring, while addressing this spectacular rewarming of relations with Havana, “Somos todos americanos” — “We are all Americans” — a slogan that will be remembered as a sort of salsa version of “Yes, we can,” he resorted to fragments of glossolalia several times to leave behind a phrasing as his mark. Obama has also used Persian, for Iran …

But the Orient is evidently too complex for him. Up to this day, he has obtained no directly exploitable result in terms of popularity with Tehran’s regime — even less in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and Turkey, from which he hoped for so much with regard to Syria and Iraq, evidently has an agenda that is completely different from the one that Washington would like to see it follow.

He was more successful in the Far East: illustration of his “pivot” theory, an American strategic redeployment meant to benefit Asia — sometimes to the detriment of Europe. He can actually claim a remarkable success with China, since he recently obtained an agreement on the limitation of CO2 emissions — which is nothing to sneeze at! But when it comes to deciding factors, this advancement has no direct impact on American public opinion.

A Rapprochement Approved by the Electorate

There are still continental stakes for the Americas, whose Cuban population is ideally situated at the intersection of two concerns. On the interior plane, in a country where 17 percent of the population — and 26 percent of births — have Latin-American roots, the reestablishment of promising links with Cuba marks a turning point that has the support of the minorities concerned — and, furthermore, the support of black communities. It even has the approval of the entire electorate, which marginalizes grumpy Republicans, like the tough guys of the first Cuban immigration, in the years 1959 to 1961.

On the other hand, conservatives who remain ideologically rigid about the Cuba blockade risk becoming divided with regard to the opening suddenly made by Obama to the “business” of exchanges, something that is very favorable to the United States. On the other hand, the second wave of Cuban immigrants, since the 1980s, conversely to the first, is very favorable to the liberalization of the transfer of funds to families of origin, an absolutely indispensable manna to the bloodless Cuban economy, the development of travel and of import/export activity.

On the exterior plane, Obama is reacting promptly to the growing investments being made by numerous countries seeking to establish themselves in the Caribbean. China is the first to come to mind, but Vladimir Putin took the time to go to Cuba, in July 2014, to announce the annulment of 90 percent of the island’s debt to the former Soviet Union, and to assure that Russia would be well-established in Mariel Port. It is also in Mariel that Brazil is massively engaged in the modernization and infrastructure equipment, presaging an intensification of activity and traffic.

One absolute determining factor is the rise in power of Latin America, which will exert considerable pressure on its great Yankee neighbor from now on. In April 2015, during the Summit of the Americas, which brings together the two continents, the major countries — including Brazil — announced that they would boycott the meeting if Cuba were left out once again. Obama just spared himself that slap.

The reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, the prospect of lifting the blockade — which can only be decided upon by Congress — a visit by Raul Castro to Washington or to his American homologue to Havana: This is what can fill the next two years and give a fresh boost to an Obama too often compared to Jimmy Carter.

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