Obama’s Cuba Policy Deserves a Cigar
30 JUL 3, 2015 2:53 PM EDT
By The Editors
President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that the U.S. will
restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and reopen an embassy in Havana
amounts to “unconditional surrender,” opponents say. Just look at the
way the Castro regime continues to crack down on dissidents.
They have it backward. Normal diplomatic relations are not some kind of
reward to Cuba for making progress; the way to get Cuba to change is to
restore normal diplomatic relations. The Obama administration has two
pieces of evidence in its favor.
First is the dismal, half-century failure of the U.S. embargo to
dislodge the Castros and restore freedom to the Cuban people. Instead,
it has merely locked the island in poverty while estranging the U.S.
both from the hemisphere and the international community.
Second is the steadily accelerating pace of change within Cuba since the
Obama administration took office. Correlation, of course, is not
causation. But over the past six years, Obama’s executive actions have
expanded freedoms for ordinary Cubans by amplifying the impact of Cuba’s
limited economic reforms. By the end of next year, annual remittances
from Cubans in the U.S. are expected to more than double from their
current levels. And since Obama’s December announcement on normalizing
relations, the pace of change has quickened. Cuba has become Airbnb’s
fastest-growing market, for instance, putting money into the pockets of
Cuban homeowners while exposing them to something equally subversive:
Opponents of normalization might also take a closer look at the kind of
cooperation it can enable. Behind the scenes, the U.S. and Cuba have
already been working together in areas such as narcotics control,
oil-rig safety and migration. These discussions can now expand to
address some of the thornier issues in the countries’ relationship,
including the billions of dollars in restitution claims by Americans who
had property seized after the Cuban revolution.
And the benefits of normalization can be expected to spread beyond Cuba.
Warmer discussions this week between Obama and Brazilian President Dilma
Rousseff demonstrated the spillover effect of U.S.-Cuba rapprochement.
The U.S. also potentially has more leverage with Venezuela, which has
traded oil for Cuban support, and a greater chance to influence peace
talks that Havana is hosting between Colombia and its rebels. Down the
road, it may be easier for the U.S. to monitor, and perhaps block,
Cuba’s dodgy arms deals with North Korea, and to counter the influence
of China, Cuba’s biggest creditor.
Cuba won’t change overnight, as Obama himself has said. But it can
change faster once it has normal relations with the U.S. That’s
something even America’s most obdurate cold warriors would do well to
To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s
editorials: David Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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