Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — The recent news about Cuba-US relations has had a huge impact at the international level and brought much joy to the Cuban people, particularly because three Cuban men who had served long and unjust sentences in the United States, for the “crime” of penetrating terrorist organizations based in South Florida, have returned home.
President Barack Obama’s decision to release them and re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba has been welcomed by the Cuban people, and constitutes the first steps in a long journey we will possibly have to make in order to normalize all relations with our neighbor.
I say that these are merely the first steps of the journey because the fundamental problem, the economic, commercial and financial blockade that has burdened the Cuban people for more than 50 years, still has not been resolved, and will have to be lifted by the US Congress.
It is fairly difficult to make any predictions about what Congress, with a Republican majority, will decide in response to Obama’s proposal that the laws that sustain the blockade be repealed, for, on the one hand, we know the Republicans will try and make the Democrat president look bad, but, on the other, there are economic interests among Republicans that would benefit from the re-establishment of bilateral trade.
Which of the two forces will prove stronger? We will have to wait and see, but, in my opinion, even though Cuban-American legislators will oppose the decision with all their strength and find support among some war-mongers like John McCain, there is a large lobby of farmers and other businesspeople whose interests have been undermined by the blockade and have done the math regarding how much they have lost in the course of 50 years and how much they can gain from exporting to a country with eleven million inhabitants, a country that draws more and more tourists and is already seeing as many as three million visitors every year (a figure that could well double in the short term if American citizens regain their freedom to travel where they please, as their Constitution establishes).
The United States is also interested in importing from Cuba many products they don’t find in other markets – some because they are made exclusively in Cuba and others because they are made with lesser quality elsewhere.
Another issue that, as I see it, is even more important than trade, is the possibility of investing in Cuba, particularly in the Mariel Special Development Zone, which has already received numerous applications from businesspeople from other countries.
In my opinion, the interests of US businesspeople will prevail over those of the Cuban-American legislators and their war-mongering supporters.
With the re-establishment of relations with Cuba, the United States has significantly improved the negative image it has earned for itself in recent years, particularly in Latin America, where it has been losing opportunities to invest and establish other businesses, opportunities that countries in Europe and Asia, which don’t mix politics and business, and do not meddle in the internal affairs of countries they trade with, have not missed. That must be the nature of all future relations between the United States and the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, if the US wishes to regain the prestige it once had.