At The Threshold of New U.S.-Cuba Relation

Since 1959, for 48 years, United States has been exercising a confrontational and isolating policy against Cuba -- a country only 90 miles away from Florida coast. The path of US-Cuba relation is a minimized scope of conflicts of Cold War worldwide; Furthermore, by placing this period of relation started after Cuban Revolution back into the whole picture, the shadow of slavery trade era and the prolonging effects of Spanish-American War show how the wheel of history rested at this point for almost half a century. Beside the consistent attention of the Cuban-American communities to their home country and the President's deluding report "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba", the current de facto transition of power to Fidel Castro's brother, Raul Castro, again drew hopes and doubts of how much the country will change. With the deceiving non-existing consensus of Cuban-American communities of pro-sanctions and the rising call for the end of travel restriction and embargo, the direction of Washington's Cuba policy became the center of the dispute while the eighth month of the power transition is passing. With the lessons of failed diplomatic measures and the current circumstance of power transition, normalization of US-Cuba relation becomes necessary.

First of all, an insightful understanding of what is happening in Cuba became an essential key. Since July 31, 2006, health of the aging Maximum General Castro forced him to transfer his power to his vice president also his brother, Raul Castro. Despite “dancing in the streets of Miami and elation in Washington” (Washington Post, Smith) expecting chaos and the prospective Cuban initiative for freedom and democracy soon in the island suggested in “Compact with the People of Cuba”, a fix of the first report, Cuba has been run “smoothly” without a single protest or disruption (This may be a paradox as a result of fear of his harshness in the past.) under Raul Castro. This phenomenon showed the extension of the fact that even under Fidel Castro’s rule Raul Castro already played an important role in Cuban government. He was first known as a brave fighter and effective commander with association in dissident executions in Cuban Revolution in 1959. Then his ideology and practice turned into a mysterious case. He “became a communist as a youth” (Time Magazine, Padgett and Mascarenas) yet the reformer who “convinced a reluctant Fidel to reopen the island’s private agricultural market” (Time Magazine, Padgett and Mascarenas) after Soviet Union withdrew all the generous aids as it demised. Currently, he “assured reporters that if any Guantanamo prisoners escaped, Cuban security forces would capture and return them” (Time Magazine, Padgett and Mascarenas) and he did periodically called for talks with United States which were followed by rejections from Bush’s Administration (Washington Post, Smith). Under the title “the practical Castro,” (Time Magazine, Padgett and Mascarenas) he is now steering the economy that rose by 7.5% last year (CIA World Factbook) through a series of market reforms and establishments of pragmatic trade ties with China and Venezuela. The nation now clearly incline to continue its economic development and Raul Castro is more likely to continue this pragmatic path while his repression of oppression will surely last. Washington should pay more attention to this act of reform in Cuba as its great demand of investment and attractive cheap supply of raw materials match American interest. On the other hand, his unpredictable political belief is modifiable and capable to cooperate in the near future with patient, non-assertive and constructive influence of United States and its own continuously growing economy.

Putting this Cuba piece of puzzle back to the Latin America background, it is obvious that American intervenes in their internal affairs have created great resistance against the U.S. and stout demand to seek and maintain self sovereignty. A stable and prosperous society cannot sustain without stable regional relations. Although with threats backed by military forces that gained the contemporary domestic peace lasted for previous decades did appease the region under American control, the notorious name the U.S. received and the torrent of independence movements have doomed the failures of continuing such measures. And by building up distrust and unnecessary barriers against these newly-established regimes, the U.S. has lost many economic advantages in the region. The waffling relation with oil-rich Venezuela, the 5th largest crude oil exporter to the U.S. that provided 0.955 million barrels per day in January (Energy Information Administration) has casted shadow over the oil industries. Recently, Cuba has discovered its significant deposit of offshore oil just seventy miles from Florida which again denied the possibility of near death of its economy but seethed American oil companies and their lobbyists to stop embargo. (Fortune Magazine) Expending American interest recklessly in the developing Latin America and the resulting diplomatic failures in the region should come to an end and the improvement with one of the fastest-growing country in the region, Cuba will be a good start.

While an expectable major meltdown of the tension between the U.S. and Cuba and ultimately the whole Latin American community seems still far away, a few simple changes in policy will be critical to initiate the change. Proposed by those Cuban-Americans whose families are still barred or strictly allowed to travel by the embargo, loosening of restriction of travel, or at least family reasoned travel, would relieve many. But for more than forty years, the ninety-mile gap between Florida and Cuba has been doubtlessly the largest distance for them. Another complicated factor that drives the policy comes from the Florida Cuban exiles or more generally speaking the Hispanic exiles who arrived under the pressure of communism or revolution. The aging hard-line exiles have practiced their diasporatic politics by holding a tight grip on their crucible votes in Florida. On the other hand, some Cuban-Americans pointed out that the hard-liners are mainly from 1960 between the revolution and the later claim of communist state and thus they do not have the concerns of families as they have brought theirs here. (U.S. Policy toward Cuba: Forty-Six Years of Failure) More straightforwardly, the hard-liners' goal is to overthrow Castro's regime and reclaim their properties on the island. Although the previous presidential campaigns showed the suppressing power of hard-liners, the aging of them and the rising of new generation as well as the increasing sympathy given to those experiencing family separation will soon get ahead in the race. Thereby, family travel allowance will achieved and eventually, the entire embargo will demise.

A major change in Washington’s Cuba policy is essential not only to Cuban-American communities but also to American interest as a whole which is showed by the urges of participation in Cuban oil rush. Meanwhile, some critics believe the infamous Helms-Burton Act of 1996 would hinder any attempt from American side to restore the relation. Despite the unclear jurisdiction of its extra-territorial provision, this act was condemned and turned against by Europe Union, Canada and some Latin American countries who continue to benefit from their trades with Cuba. Moreover, the coincided transition of power in the U.S. would have sufficient power to and might have the determination to modify or terminate this Republican proposal in order to pave the way for the negotiation of normalization of U.S.-Cuba relation. Similar in this manner, currently "The Cuban-American Family Rights Restoration Act" is being drafted and supported by a group consisting members from both parties ironically including Republican Representative Dan Burton, the co-author of Helms-Burton Act. As its name suggests, with hope, it will start not only the restoration of Cuban-American family's connection with their kin but also one of the relation between the U.S. and Cuba.

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