Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-Fidel Castro was a ruthless and oppressive dictator for nearly 60 years and the Cuban people deserve a reprieve from the unimaginable suffering, poverty and denial of fundamental human rights that they have endured for over half a century. With his passing, hope has been reignited with many Cubans exiled in America for a return to a free, democratic and prosperous Cuba. With Fidel’s brother, Raul, still living and still in charge, Cubans and Americans are skeptical about reconciliation in spite of Barack Obama’s attempts in 2015 to normalize diplomatic relations.
His executive actions have done little to change the course of Cuban foreign policy and Communist rule, though various travel and financial restrictions have been lifted and embassies opened. The 50 year ban on Cuban rum and cigars was lifted as were restrictions on importing Cuban pharmaceuticals, selling American agricultural products, and allowing Cubans to purchase American products online (though internet access for Cubans is limited and restricted).
Congress has refused Obama’s requests to lift the original 1958 commercial, economic and financial embargo on Cuba, and the only benefit of the president’s previous actions has been to Cuba’s current leader, Raul Castro, as no real policies have been established to stop political and human rights violations in Cuba. The main goal of any of his Cuban policy changes has been to make new regulations or directives unalterable for any future president, which could hinder any changes that a new administration would want to undo.
With the executive actions that the Obama administration has implemented concerning Cuba, the President-elect will have to seriously rethink Cuban foreign policy as well as the status of Cuban exiles that have lived in American for decades. Since Obama’s Cuban concessions were done through executive orders, the new president could reverse them while implementing new policies that would likely include renegotiating and altering what Obama recently granted to the Raul Castro regime.
The new administration will most likely take a hard line on Communism in Cuba and will possibly reinstate all embargos, but negotiated outcomes will have to promote democracy as well as religious and political freedom for the people and political prisoners still suffering in Cuba. Perhaps the President-elect will unravel the entanglement of regulations that Obama put in place in regard to trade and commercial enterprises in Cuba.
Considerations will have to be made for those exiled from Cuba and currently living in the United States. If they desire repatriation to their island country, negotiations must be entered into to restore their citizen rights within their country that include no reprisals on former citizens along with establishment of human rights reforms for them and other citizens already living in Cuba.
A new day has dawned in Cuba with the passing of Fidel Castro, but whether hard line negotiations by a new administration will be able to break Raul Castro’s hold on the Cuban people and the aura surrounding his brother’s leadership, it is hard to say. If anyone is able to change the course of Cuba’s political and human rights policies, it will be a Trump influenced foreign policy and the right negotiators with the right set of ground rules to aid Cuban citizens, not the will of another Castro. It will be up to the Cuban people to help determine their fate and remove the bonds of a legendary leader that has held them hostage for almost sixty years.
Owatonna, MN Correspondent-The best time for the United States to rethink its foreign policy with Cuba was immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. That event immediately diminished Cuba’s strategic importance in world politics. Our delaying the inevitable détente that will happen once both Castros are out of power is another case of our government’s unwillingness to admit mistakes and its attempt to save face with regard to enforcing an embargo on the Cuban people that had zero effect on Cuba’s political relations with us.
We can’t use the excuse that Cuba is a communist dictatorship and we shouldn’t negotiate or otherwise do business with dictators. We conducted business with the Stalin regime in World War II, allying with them against the Axis powers. Nixon went to China in the 1970s in an effort to warm relations between the US and a communist dictatorship. The US allowed trade with the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s, and regularly negotiated nuclear and military treaties with them since the end of WW II.
To single out Cuba for what seemed to be a personal vendetta against Fidel Castro seems ludicrous by comparison. The Cuban people were the only ones hurt by the embargo, and they suffered great hardship because of that. Considering we have a large number of Cuban exiles now living in the US, our best course of action should be to normalize trade and cultural exchange with Cuba as rapidly as possible. Once the Cuban people can communicate with their exiled friends and families, start to enjoy some of the benefits of capitalism that will come with resuming trade with the US, and gain access to the facts of their government’s oppression of them for more than 50 years, they will work from the inside to hasten the Castro regime’s demise and install some form of democratic government for themselves. By stonewalling, the US will only delay the inevitable and end up looking bad on the world stage.