This is a big step, sure to be engraved in the annals of history. U.S. President Barack Obama and Chairman Raul Castro of neighboring Cuba have formally entered into normalization talks. Considering the 50-plus years of sour relations between the two countries, these recent developments are deeply moving. For two heads of state overcoming their past antagonism with such a historic decision, I have nothing but praise.
The U.S. will loosen restrictions on travel, as well as relax sanctions on remittances and exports. Dropping the “state sponsor of terrorism” designation is under consideration, and an embassy will be established in Cuba within a few months. Mr. Castro delivered an address declaring that Mr. Obama’s decision is worthy of respect and gratitude; may this become, in Mr. Obama’s own words, “a new beginning.”*
Until this point, the U.S. has attempted to isolate Cuba from the international community — but anyone can see that this approach has not borne fruit. It would appear as though the U.S. has determined that promoting coexistence and mutual prosperity via supporting economic reforms is a more practical approach.
It has been revealed that Pope Francis acted as a mediator between the two countries, sending both respective heads of state a letter urging them to improve their relations and sponsoring a venue for talks. Canada made similar efforts, intermediating negotiations behind the scenes. I have a great deal of respect for the significant contributions of them both.
Cuba-U.S. antagonism originated with the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Fidel Castro’s administration pushed a Socialist agenda, while confiscating American assets. The U.S. announced the severing of ties in January of 1961. In April of that year, the U.S. deployed counter-revolutionary forces in order to stage a coup d’état, but failed.
In 1962, the U.S. enacted a full embargo. In that same year, the Soviet Union planned to construct a missile site in Cuba, the deployment of which the U.S. attempted to obstruct with a sea blockade. This event, known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, is considered to be the closest the world has ever come to a nuclear war.
Afterward, Cuba received aid from the Soviet Union, but all that ended with the dissolution of the USSR. In spite of this, Cuba independently managed to overcome its resource deficits and expand its agricultural production and medical technology to the point that it now enjoys the longest expected life span of any South American nation. Due to its traditional architecture, it is also becoming a major tourist destination.
All of this serves as the basis for the normalization of Cuba-U.S. relations. Cuba’s economy is likely to progress at a rapid pace. The development of a neighboring country will exert a positive influence on the United States, and a mutually beneficial relationship is sure to emerge. For that reason as well, these developments by the heads of state of both countries are sure to be thought of highly in posterity.
Meanwhile, the diehards of the U.S. Republican Party have criticized this move as “a victory for Cuban dictatorship,”* and “another in a long line of mindless concessions.” They are also making moves to obstruct the relaxation of the sanctions. I would hope that the U.S. Congress would stop trying to fight against the gears of fate, and assist in the dissolution of this distasteful relic of the Cold War.
*Editor’s note: These quotes, accurately translated, could not be verified.