¿Can We Be Amigos?

The Fifth Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad and Tobago on April 17th shed light on America’s new role in the Western Hemisphere. The most controversial issue was President Obama’s welcoming attitude towards the Republic of Cuba. According to CBSnews.com, at the summit President Obama made it the issue there by stating:

We all have a responsibility to see that the people of the Americas have the ability to pursue their own dreams in democratic society… I have already changed a Cuba policy that has failed to advance liberty or opportunity for the Cuban people.

President Obama lifted the travel ban but has yet to lift the trade embargo. He wants this act to signify the beginning of a new open relationship between the two nations. The U.S. could approach this openness in three different ways: lift the tourism and trade embargo, offer lenient trade terms, or provide civilian and military aid during national disasters or external threats.

All these points sound good and many are saying, “Caesar’s better parts
Shall be crown’d in Obama” (Act 3 Scene 2). But why should our attitude toward Cuba change? There are two reasons, one is that the U.S. is willing to open negotiations with some concessions; or the Cuban government admits the errors they have committed and wants to open up a dialogue with concessions. The second option is what the US has always wanted: for the country of Cuba to hold peaceful and democratic elections, provide liberty and security for its citizens, and have cordial relations with other American nations. Few realize that Cuba is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that does not hold public elections on any level. The first option is what Cuba has always wanted: for the US to realize that its ongoing approach failed, That the US was not the sole power in the Americas, that socialism in Cuba and other Latin American countries worked exceptionally well and should be emulated or praised, and for Cuba to rule itself as it has for the last 60 years.

Neither series has occurred nor should President Obama support either unless he and President Raúl Castro come to certain agreements. Cuba is still the same communist country that it has been since Fidel Castro took over. The storming of the Peruvian Embassy on April 6, 1980 by ten thousand impoverished citizens , the Mariel boatlift, and the imprisonment during “Black Spring” all point to strife and unrest in a citizen suppressed country. In April 20’s Wall Street Journal Laura Meckler wrote,

‘Once the U.S. and Cuba are seated across the table, the Americans will realize that the Cubans are willing to talk but not to give anything up,’ said Brian Latell, a former Central Intelligence Agency Cuba analyst who has written a biography of Raúl Castro. Mr. Castro has made similar assertions before without following through. After taking over from his ailing brother in 2006, he promised a host of changes, few of which materialized.

Before a dialogue is opened between the US and Cuba, Cuba must recognize the need for change. It could start with President Obama asking the Castro brothers to believe in change. A dissolution of the old ways, a renewed pledge of peace and prosperity, a restructuring of an old state which used oppression, intimidation, and injustice to control a nation. I think that a correct and well timed impersonation of a strong leader with a vision such as Theodore Roosevelt would be appropriate now and could be more effective than an uninhibited open door policy with which other foreign leaders, as Hugo Chavez has shown, would misuse.