For the past half century, America has been Cuba’s enemy, punishing the island’s people for the sins of its leaders. But, with typical common sense and compassion, President Obama is ending the long blockade at last.
When he arrives in Havana tomorrow, he will usher in a new day for the island’s 11 million people – and for many American business interests straining at the leash to exploit this potentially lucrative market.
The President will be accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha. Surely, even Raul Castro (above with Obama), wary though he is of this US detente, will be disarmed by America’s First Family.
But Cuba will not change overnight.
Ahead of his trip, Obama announced he is easing travel restrictions for Americans and restoring Cuba’s access to the global financial system. But the Castro government has been slow to respond by embracing trade with America. According to a PBS program I was listening to yesterday, several eager entrepreneurs have so far returned from the island empty handed.
Disappointingly, the regime has been even more reluctant to relax its oppressive rule. Cuba is listed among the world’s most restrictive regimes. And there has been no suggestion of reform in return for ending the American embargo.
Republican leaders, including all of the party’s presidential candidates, oppose the President’s outreach to Cuba because they see few concessions from the Castro government in return.
And while President Obama will raise the issue of human rights reform during his visit, nobody expects the Castro regime to significantly change its harsh policies anytime soon.
President Obama is looking beyond the immediate future. He knows that with America’s embrace, Cuba will inevitably become a different country, whether the Castro government likes it or not.
“Our central premise,” he said in a recent interview,”is that if they are suddenly exposed to the world, opened to America and our information and our culture and our visitors and our businesses, invariably they’re going to change.”
And it’s not just America that Cubans will be encountering first hand. Several other democratic countries, including Mexico, Canada and France, previously resumed normal relations with Cuba.
As the Cuban people become exposed to a less onerous way of life, even a regime as recalcitrant as Cuba’s must eventually see the light.