Barack Obama and Raul Castro recently announced a normalization of US-Cuba relations! A Christmas miracle. This was the one foreign policy move I was hoping Obama would make before his time in office runs out. This move is 25 years too late, but better late than never. I want to use this blog to thank President Obama for ending one of the worst US foreign policies in recent memory and for melting the 'last icicle of the Cold War'. Hats off to the Pope for playing an important role in the deal. The decision to punish the Cuban people in response to the Cuban regime's human rights violations seemed like bad policy during the Cold War and simply unethical after. The new deal will be good for US commerce and good for the people of Cuba. It will be key in improving US relations with the region as a whole. The entire left wing/anti-American movement lead by Hugo Chavez could have easily been avoided if the embargo would have been lifted 25 years ago. This is a win-win decision for everyone. For those who say this is encouraging bad behavior, they need to take it easy. The Castro regime is on its last leg (Raul is 83) and they have been making significant steps including a liberalization of the economy and the release of political prisoners. Yes, they won't be winning any human rights awards but there are many countries who do worse that have normal relations with the US. We normalized relations with Vietnam back in 1995!
For those interested in more detail of the negative impact of the embargo here are some articles that have called for an end to the embargo in the past: the CATO institute from 2005, a National Interest report from 2012, republished yesterday, and a 2009 report by Amnesty International that documents the impact of the embargo on the people of Cuba.
When the move was announced I thought of a conversation I had some years back with one Estonian while waiting in line to get travel documents (I was getting an ID card, she was getting a new passport). She said she was going on a trip to Cuba. It seemed like a mystical place. One of my friends went and had a wonderful time, she mentioned that the people were poor. Unfortunately that poverty is in large part a result of US policy. I found it offensive that my government, which was supposed to stand for freedom, would tell me where I can and cannot go on vacation. The news to normalize relations does not remove the entire embargo, because that needs to be done by Congress but it is a start. I can't wait for the day when I will have the freedom to go to Cuba. Maybe I never will go (the Maldives, Bora Bora, Hawaii, and Cape Verde are all ahead in my fantasy vacation priority list), but it is important that it will be me making that decision instead of Congress or the State Department. I hope that Congress will do what is right and end whats left of the embargo as soon as possible.