Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — Over recent weeks, and particularly following President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba, much has been written about Cuba’s relations with its northern neighbor, and many have offered their perspective on the matter. I feel the need to share mine.
On December 17, 2014, when the Cuban and US presidents announced the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations, a long process of conversations aimed at normalizing relations between the two countries began. This process will be slow and fraught with obstacles we will have to overcome in order to arrive at full relations of a new type, such as have never existed between these two neighbors.
President Obama’s recent visit to Cuba has undoubtedly had a positive effect, as it implies acknowledging the Cuban government as an interlocutor and sending a message to the rest of the world in this connection.
The measures President Obama has taken to date are positive and are heading in the right direction, but they are not enough and, in some cases, prove impossible to implement while the obstacles imposed by blockade laws continue to exist.
Obama’s speech to Cuban civil society provides us with the key elements of the current US objectives and tells us what we can expect in the future.
The aims for the present were clearly laid out. The insistence on forgetting the past and looking only to the future seeks to cover up US policy over the years, support for criminal and neo-fascist regimes that have claimed thousands of lives, not only in Cuba, but across Latin America. All the while, the United States has assumed the position of a judge, a champion of human rights in all countries, even though it is unable to guarantee such rights at home.
Obama himself has tried to make us see that all of these things happened before he came to office, but support for the regime that violates the human rights of the Palestinian people isn’t a thing of the past; it is very much in the present.
With respect to Cuba, the US president made clear his objective of changing the socialist system and returning us to capitalism. To do this, he offered private businesses and the dissident groups they have manufactured and financed all of his support. As way of an example, they have just approved a budget of nearly US $800,000 to train “young, emerging leaders of Cuban civil society.”
As for the future, suffice it to pay close attention to what he said during the address. It was a political speech and, as such, what he didn’t say is as important as what he did.
Obama did not mention any of the issues Cuba put on the table, justifiably, in the search of normalized relations, such as the return of the area illegally occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base, an end to all propaganda radio and television broadcasts, in frank violation of the norms governing the use of the radio-electric spectrum, compensation for damages caused Cuba over 50 years of aggression of every kind (which no one can forget), the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the wet foot – dry foot policy and an end to the visa program for medical doctors who abandon their work in other countries to emigrate to the United States.
Obama made no mention of any of this, which means there are no real intentions of normalizing relations with the revolutionary and socialist Cuba we have today.
Cuba has always been open to frank and respectful exchange and to work towards the normalization of relations, based on mutual respect and devoid of any meddling in the internal affairs of the other. Cubans aren’t trying to change the United States’ political system, which is full of defects and social injustice, but we also do not allow anyone to try and change ours, which isn’t perfect and we are trying to improve ourselves.