On Thursday, one year after the extraordinary announcement of the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States, American authorities announced the reopening of a regular air transport service with the island. Last week, the two countries agreed to re-establish direct postal connections, which were interrupted more than 50 years ago. These signs, among others, show that normalization is officially and symbolically on track, with one thing leading to another.
Important stages have been passed through since Dec. 17, 2014, not least of which is the re-establishment of formal diplomatic relations in July, with the reopening of embassies and the removal of Cuba from the American list of “state sponsors of terrorism.” However, much remains to be done, not taking into account the possibility of warming relations suddenly cooling if unfortunately, the Republican Party succeeds in taking hold of the presidency in 2016.
While the number of Americans authorized to travel to the island has increased 50 percent over the past year, Americans are still prohibited to set foot there “for tourist activities,” in accordance with the embargo that has been in place since 1962. The embargo constitutes the principal obstacle to a real commercial pacification. President Barack Obama again demanded the abrogation of the embargo on Thursday from a Congress whose prerogative is to drag its feet.
Other questions divide the two governments. In particular, the Guantanamo Bay military base the United States has occupied since 1903 but refuses to return to Havana, and the inextricable problem of compensation demanded by Americans for real estate losses, and by Cubans for prejudice caused by the embargo – a problem involving demands that amount to hundreds of billions of American dollars.
At the moment, the relaxation of restrictions has had the perverse effect of substantially sharpening the migratory gamble. Hundreds of millions of Cubans have fled the island in the last year, trying to reach the United States (more than 78 percent, according to the Pew Research Center), fearing a revocation of the Cuban Adjustment Act, the American legislation that since 1966 has given resident status to all Cubans who arrive in the United States.
Normalization has not yet opened the door to a higher quality of life or greater liberty for most Cubans. Arbitrary arrests are still practiced freely, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights noted on Tuesday, which leads to the obvious risk that the Castro regime could perpetuate itself, Chinese-style, for even longer before intervention leads to real political change.
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