Cuba–US Relations: We Just Have to Wait and See

Dariela Aquique


HAVANA TIMES — The day in which Cuba and the United States decided to re-establish diplomatic relations has finally arrived but, beyond the lively enthusiasm this has awakened and despite all of the encouraging things that have been said, I harbor my doubts about all that remains to be done on this end.

December 17th was a unique day in the history of Cuba and perhaps the world. Without a doubt, the change in relations between the United States and the island will alter the climate of the continent’s geopolitical map and will likely have an impact on other parts of the world in the long run.

After 53 years of hostility and an aggressive political rhetoric, Washington and Havana have given their political and economic relationship a 180-turn. Though there are no defined agendas, the measures announced suggest that the embargo has been practically annulled.
But, is the goodwill behind this concrete act of reconciliation the same at both ends? As Cuba’s legendary cartoon character Elipidio Valdes says, “One has to see it to believe, pal.”

We were surprised by the simultaneous addresses of presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro. There were different reactions to these, because, for over half a century, there have existed two Cubas with two highly different stances and sentiments (which is why the addresses of the two leaders prompted so many mixed feelings).

The extreme Right in Miami must be feeling betrayed by the US president and certainly wants nothing to do with the Castro government. I feel, however, that it is time to shed old resentments and to adopt a new posture of reconciliation and tolerance, for the benefit of ordinary Cubans and all who aspire to build a better Cuba, here, not from abroad.

I know very well there are wounds that haven’t healed, but what Obama did yesterday has been the clearest display of why he is deserving of his Nobel Peace Prize. Yesterday, the first black president of the United States joined Gandhi and Mandela in the list of people who, in the name of peace, have put aside differences between countries. The leader’s goodwill was evident in his speech, where he made clear that their aim is chiefly the wellbeing of the Cuban people, which, without a doubt, has been the one most hurt by the political hostilities.

I’m Cuban and have lived my entire life surrounded by unfulfilled promises. The first thing that made me wary was the different tones of the two speeches. Obama’s sounded conciliatory, direct and improvised, while Raul Castro’s was short and read like a press note.

Underscoring the country’s differences with respect to democracy and human rights, the US president spoke of measures aimed at tracing a new course in relations with Cuba and to help the Cuban people. He thanked the two million Cubans and Cuban-Americans who live in the United States and have contributed to the country, and the 11 million Cubans on the island who share the hope of leading Cuba to a brighter future.

By contrast, during his speech, Castro reminded viewers that, since his appointment, he has always expressed an interest in re-establishing bilateral relations and added that all negotiations have been carried out “without renouncing a single principle of the revolution.” Given the circumstances, I felt the comment was rudely unnecessary.

The US administration announced the opening of a US Embassy in Havana and the normalization of diplomatic relations, in addition to a series of measures to broaden economic ties to the island and improve the situation of the Cuban people.

Obama also announced that the inclusion of Cuba on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism will be reviewed and that the Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs will head a delegation that will visit Havana in January of 2015, to take part in a round of negotiations on migratory issues. The US president even invited Raul Castro to participate at the Summit of the Americas to be held in Panama next April.

On this end, Raul stressed that the embargo is still an unresolved issue, as though he felt the steps taken were not enough and he were minimizing the fact that, even though the embargo hasn’t been officially lifted (because this requires the approval of Congress), the measures announced practically implied its elimination.

On Wednesday, Cuba got quite a lot without giving much in return. In fact, the news focused on the arrival of the three agents who had been imprisoned in the US and dealt with the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States as a secondary issue.

What will Cuba’s posture be, when it is time to make changes in domestic policy? Could it be they expect everything to change while everything at home remains the same? We just have to wait and see.

7 thoughts on “Cuba–US Relations: We Just Have to Wait and See

  • I sincerely wish that embargo can be lifted soon and all Cuban can travel to Miami as frequent and long as they wish! But I don’t think the US congress is ready for it. The only way this process can be speed up, again in my personal opinion, is for either China or Russia getting really close with Cuba again.

    In which case, the US has to decide if they want to push Cuba over to the other side.

  • That is an interesting comparison, but it’s not clear if the same conditions apply to the US-Cuba relationship.

    Although they were divided between East Germany and West Germany, the people were all Germans. In the Cuban case, we have the island of Cuba as the homeland, and a small population of ex-pat Cubans living in the much larger non-Cuban US.

    Also it is not clear how the opening started by Willy Brandt lead to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. East European dissidents criticized the West for the policy of detente with the USSR and the East European dictatorships and blamed that move for prolonging the political repression they endured.

    The government of Erich Honeker opposed the East German pro-democracy dissidents right up to the end. There was no smooth transition to democracy and reunification. The Berlin Wall did not come down until after the Polish people were able to overthrow the Communist dictatorship in that country, followed by the collapse of the Czechoslovak Communist regime. East Germans began to escape the DGR through these other countries. The DGR soldiers and police found it increasingly difficult to maintain order. It was at that point that the people marched on the Wall and began to tear it down. Eventually, Eric Honeker and several other members of the DGR government and security establishment were tried and convicted of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity.

    How exactly did the policy of detente with East Germany lead to this outcome? It seems more likely that the Berlin Wall fell despite the detente relationship between the two governments.

    If you are trying to make a comparison between what happened in Germany, and what might happen in Cuba, are you suggesting the Cuban people will soon rise up and overthrow the Castro regime? Will Raul, Fidel and a host of other regime honchos find themselves hauled before the court of a free & democratic Cuba to answer for their crimes?

    If so, that is a prospect many Cubans would very much like to see. But I do not believe it is one the Castro regime will wish.

  • In the cases of Czechoslovakia and East Germany, the Communist regimes of those counties collapsed, replaced by liberal democratic states. That situation does not apply to Cuba. You are mistaken to draw any sort of equivalence.

    Or do you see the Castro regime suddenly collapsing? Will the Cuban people rise up and smash the monuments of Revolution Square, as the people of East German took their hammers to the Berlin Wall?

    Will Raul and Fidel Castro face arrest and criminal trials as did Erich Honecker, the Communist ruler of East Germany?

    Exactly what sort of equivalence are your trying to make here?

  • Obama is doing the right thing. Going
    by history and the close family ties many Cubans in Cuba have with
    the USA this calculated risk should pay off in time. That is if the USA are
    prepared to learn from history.

    Initially the Federal Republic of
    Germany (West Germany) followed the so-called Hallstein doctrine. It
    meant that West Germany would not have diplomatic relations with any
    country that had diplomatic relations with the German Democratic
    Republic (East Germany) The only exception was for West Germany to
    have an ambassador in the Soviet Union.

    In 1969 the social liberal coalition
    between the Social Democrats and the Free Democrats came to power.
    Chancellor Willy Brandt had impeccable credentials. He was an active
    opponent of the Nazis. He was also mayor of West Berlin when the wall
    was built in 1961.

    Against massive opposition from the
    political right political engagement with Eastern European
    governments and the establishment of embassies (even a permanent
    representation in East Germany) was pursued. Many of the government’s
    own MPs crossed over to the opposition.

    In 1972 the government survived a vote
    of confidence by just one vote However, they won the next general
    election with an increased majority.

    Humanitarian relief followed by
    allowing people to visit relatives in both directions. The wall had
    many holes.

    When the centre-right under Helmut Kohl
    came to power in 1982 they carried on with the same policy they had
    previously opposed. In fact in the 1980s that the East German
    government had effectively an unlimited credit line in West Germany.
    In 1988 East German leader Erich Honecker made an official state
    visit to West Germany.

    The rest is history and we all know how
    it played out.

    Without that change of policy, an end to the
    banging of heads against a brick wall that very same wall that came
    down may otherwise still be there today.

    West Germany was criticised for
    ignoring dissidents even though they spent millions on buying freedom
    and an exit permit for political prisoners. Economic relations were
    very close, sometimes too close. Several West German and Austrian
    companies used East Germany as a cheap supplier of goods. We now know
    many of these goods were produced by political prisoners in East
    German prisons. The totally uncoordinated and unintended interplay
    between Western governments and human rights activists brought about
    a weakening of the political power in Eastern Europe at exactly the
    same time that these countries had their national sovereignty
    guaranteed. It led to the establishment of the Organisation for
    Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which guaranteed the
    inviolability of state borders. This lasted until 2014 when Russia
    annexed Crimea.

    I think Obama is confident that his
    policy will be continued after 2016 even if a Republican were to
    become President. A Republican congressman accompanied Alan Gross on
    his flight back to the US. Jeff Bush will find it difficult to win
    Florida if he decides to go back to where we were last week. Obama’s
    move is the best thing anyone could have done for the Cuban
    population. Congress would be wise to lift the embargo.

  • “On Wednesday, Cuba got quite a lot without giving much in return.”

    This sort of conclusion can come only from someone who thinks that government dominates our lives. The real life of the two countries is trade and millions of personal interactions. Just watch. Czechoslovakia’s tilt toward the west wasn’t much either. And then it was.

  • I enjoyed the honesty in the article. Nice read.

  • Again, this Cuban writer has underestimated the challenge that remains in lifting the embargo. I also hope that the embargo is soon to be lifted. But to do so means that the Castros are long gone, open multiparty elections are scheduled, an independent media has been legalized and movement towards a market-oriented economy is taking place. These are the prerequisites to take place before Congress can repeal Helms-Burton. To say that the embargo has all but been annulled is naïve.

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