The importance of Obama’s visit
DIMAS CASTELLANOS | La Habana | 21 Mar 2016 – 11:24 am.
The damage done to US economic interests by the 1959 revolution led to
the deterioration of relations between the two countries. In the midst
of the Cold War, disagreements led to a rupture in relations and Cuba’s
alliance with the Soviet Union. In this context the Cuban government, in
defense of its national “sovereignty”, nationalized the economy,
dismantled civil society, restricted freedoms, and took the road towards
The economic inefficiency of the model introduced was patched up by
Soviet subsidies until the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe
unveiled the mirage and sunk Cuba into a crisis – dubbed with with the
euphemism of “Special Period in Time of Peace” – that has still not been
overcome. From that point forward the changes introduced, including the
reforms initiated in 2008, have failed. Shortages, high prices, low
wages, discontent, corruption and the exodus characterized a crisis
exacerbated by the turmoil facing Hugo Chávez’s allied regime in
Venezuela, and the end of subsidies from that country.
Meanwhile, the ten presidential administrations that have occupied the
White House since then, from Eisenhower to Bush, all failed in their
attempts to bring about change in Cuba, losing influence in the region.
The Obama Administration, from his first term in 2009, began to relax
the embargo measures, and in his second term abandoned the failed policy
and implemented new measures, including the latest on the eve of his
visit, which practically constitute those previous policies’ death
certificate, to be ratified by the US Congress sooner than later.
As the use of force has failed, and the approach based on of winners and
losers has come to an end, a return to politics has been embraced.
Unable to find a new sponsor, the Government of Cuba took the road of
rapprochement with the United States, while President Barack Obama, with
a platform that ruled out being the direct agent of change on the
island, chose the most effective path to collaborate towards the
democratization of Cuba. Both sides, based on a dose of political
realism, held secret talks that led to the restoration of diplomatic
relations, one of whose effects is President Obama’s visit to Cuba.
These developments, regardless of their interpretation, have certainly
given rise to hope in what has been a dejected and demoralized country,
struggling just to survive, or to flee anywhere else in the world.
The visit, in addition to being the first to Cuba of an official
character by an American president (that by Calvin Coolidge in 1928 was
to inaugurate the VI Pan American Conference in Havana) is of enormous
significance. Representing the effect of the restoration of diplomatic
relations, preceded by concrete measures and public statements in the
defense of human rights, it will also further the same because:
1- It backs up the statement issued by the White House which stated that
it “will serve to reinforce the progress made towards the normalization
of relations between the two countries, advancing commercial and
personal ties that could improve the welfare of the Cuban people and
express our support for human rights.”
2- It represents a major barricade to regressing to the period prior to
December 17, 2014 .
3- It places those reactionary Cubans who insist on speaking of the
“enemy” and “the besieged plaza” in an awkward position, exposed to the
4- It contributes to Cubans’ gradual empowerment, a favorable outcome
for both governments, and especially for the Cuban people.
If we add to this that the United States – separated by less than 100
miles from Cuba – is the world’s third largest in area, and with the
third biggest economy, it is not difficult to appreciate what
normalization will mean for Cubans.
What happens after the visit will be the sole responsibility of Cubans,
of our understanding of the moment, and our ability to act on a stage in
which disagreements between the two governments will be gradually
displaced by the internal tension between the Cuban people and their
Out of pragmatism and responsibility, the problems that have
accumulated, which are many and complex, require an approach in
accordance with the changing times. With the “enemy” gone, and Cuba
dependent on relations with the West, it will be extremely difficult to
sustain the approach based on alleged differences in conceptions of
human rights, in this way justifying their non-ratification of the
universal agreements on civil, political, economic, social and cultural
Harder still will be defending the fallacy contained in the editorial of
the newspaper Granma last March 9, contending that “Cuba defends the
indivisibility, interdependence and universality of human, civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights”, as the recognition of
any civil, political or cultural rights is utterly undermined by the
simultaneous denial of economic and social rights. In the same way, it
is impossible to exercise and enjoy economic and social rights in the
absence of civil and political rights.
Despite the existence of strong internal and external obstacles, the
strong legacy of human rights in Cuba shows us the path to take – one
that began in 1878 with the emergence of Cuban civil society, reflected
in the pro-independence and republican constitutions of 1901 and 1940,
which in many respects portended the content of the Universal
Declaration of Human rights of 1948, and which suffered an unacceptable
setback under the current Constitution, which only recognizes the right
to defend the totalitarian system that mired the country in the deep
structural crisis in which it finds itself.
Source: The importance of Obama’s visit | Diario de Cuba –