The respective announcements made on December 17th by both US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, which announced the opening up of diplomatic relations between the two, undoubtedly shocked the political world by bringing to an end one of the longest running and most significant feuds in the history of modern international relations. As of Wednesday, each nation has pledged their commitment to introducing stability, prosperity and communicability to a relationship which must be completely re-established following the rapid deterioration of ties between 1959 and 1961.
Having arisen due to the communisation of Cuba through the nationalisation of private, mostly American-owned property and industry without concessions; the cutting of communication between the two manifested itself primarily through a US embargo on trade and finance, aiming to force the Island into the establishment of a capitalist state structure and a pro-US government. Yet under the leadership of Raul’s older brother Fidel Castro, Cuba remained a steadfast communist state, with two events during the early 1960’s cementing any potential of a friendly relationship between the two as unattainable: the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year.
Successive US Administrations, until Obama announced his intentions for goodwill in his manifesto prior to the 2008 Presidential Election, failed to recognise the beneficial nature of reversing the outdated and frankly draconian embargo placed upon a now deprived Cuba. It is difficult to understand how such progressive thinking has taken so long to successfully permeate US foreign policy: Each government has suggested that since the sanctions began, the cost to their nation respectively has been $1.2 billion and $685 million; meaning that on aggregate it is in fact US corporations who have suffered the most.
Luckily the plans announced on Wednesday go beyond just solving the economic stalemate which exists: the repealing of US tourist restrictions to the Island are set to enhance cultural links; whilst both the removal of Cuba from America’s list of states deemed to sponsor terrorism alongside the establishment of respective embassies will create political grounds upon which a strong relationship can hoped to be forged. A culmination of such transformations should see Cuba finally shake off its stigma as an isolated communist relic. Although its radically leftist political system probably won’t alter fundamentally any time soon; it would be sensible to assume that further exposure to the US, coupled with the reformist tendencies of Raul Castro, should be successful in finally moderating and modernising Cuba. The availability of American trade is expected to provide an incentive for the government to privatise certain economic sectors, whilst the importation of American culture should see an increase in popular demand for political reform.
If Castro genuinely has the interest of the nation at heart; he will ensure that this recent offer of inclusivity by the US can act as a catalyst for the adaptation of Cuba’s political and economic system into one of a quasi-liberal democracy, akin to that of China.
Image Rights; Matias Garabedian