After a half-century of relations based on dirty tricks and political anger, Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro have opted for normalization. In fact, unless there are major setbacks from the U.S. Congress, the embargo — the formidable weapon — as well as the remnants of the Cold War should be put in parentheses.
On Wednesday morning, at a time when we remained paralyzed by the savagery of the Taliban in Pakistan — the kingdom said to be pure [sic] — across the four corners of the planet, Obama and Castro stupefied the world by announcing the normalization of diplomatic relationship between the two countries, along with exchanges of prisoners. A sign of the special care given to the magnitude of this topic was that it was decided that Canada would be the location of the negotiations between the two countries, which are two of the oldest enemies on the planet.
Before a second round of talks begins on a certain number of topics, and especially before Congress studies and eventually gives its approval to the end of the embargo, they are both going to open embassies. What else? Both parties have agreed to lift a number of restrictions on the mobility of people and on a number of financial transactions, to take Cuba’s name off the list of countries supporting terrorism and to encourage access to more technology products. Human rights and freedom of expression are still in question.
While waiting for a follow up, which should come soon, the first step of reconciliation between these two countries teaches us that it is the logical set of political and economic decisions toward Cuba after Fidel Castro withdrew from the scene in 2006 due to illness. Evidently, these actions have, needless to say, produced their fair share of political and cultural repercussions in the United States in general, and especially in Florida. Let’s break it down.
When he inherited power in the middle of the last decade, Raul hurried to adopt the policy one step at a time, which, once put together, gives rise to a reform of the country that does not say his name. Still, the youngest member of the Castro family first softened the migration laws, and he privatized a good proportion of farm lands, modernized the fiscal code, more or less reduced the number of public sector jobs and thus, allowed a certain number of private sector activities to take place; he made credit available to non-public banks, partially liberalized real estate properties, etc. In short, in the wake of these gestures, the words “decentralization,” “accountability” and “institutionalization” are no longer taboos, especially considering that, prior to these shocking changes, Raul Castro hammered in the words “we reform, or we sink.”
We must add an outright macropolitical decision to the small steps mentioned. In 2013, the persistence of the economic disasters caused by the 2008 crisis convinced Castro of the reality that steps must be taken in the private sector in manufacturing, so that the gross domestic product can reach 50 percent by 2018. Thereby, the Cuban president made more than just an appeal for action to Obama, since, without the end of the embargo, it’s impossible for him to be satisfied.
For his part, by signing the diplomatic normalization and by saying that he’s for ending the trade sanctions that have cost, according to the calculations of La Havana, more than $1 trillion since their implementation on Feb. 7, 1962, President Obama just accomplished a political stroke of brilliance. What’s certain is that, between his agreement with China on global warming, his immigration reform, the extension of negotiations with Iran and yesterday’s announcement, Obama is the exact opposite of the “lame duck.”