The day of the announcement by President Obama of a new course in relations between the United States and Cuba, La Voix de l’Amérique wanted to discuss about this historical moment for the United States. As declared by Obama, the embargo has been in effect for over five decades with debatable success. Obama announced that “we [the US] will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.” The technicalities behind the shift in US policy was possible with the assistance/help of the Pope and the Canadian government. However other reasons may have contributed to this new course.
EU-Cuba relations, a factor in the shift of US policy?
The US has in recent years been in a difficult position considering the recent opening of relationship between Western countries and Cuba. For instance, the European Union renewed its relationship in 2008 with Cuba. The EU-Cuba relations are taking place through bilateral and regional basis. As described on the EEAS website, the EU is a considerable partner for Cuba, as the EU figures:
- the second most important trading partner with Cuba, accounting 20% of total Cuban trade,
- the second biggest source of Cuban imports with 20%,
- the third most important destination for Cuban exports (21%)
- Cuba’s biggest external investor
- 1/3 of all tourists on yearly basis come from the EU
Additionally, in April 2014, the EU opened a new round of negotiations with La Havana in order to launch a bilateral agreement on Political Dialogue and Cooperation. “The EU intends to accompany Cuba in the ongoing process of change and modernization by providing a stronger framework for political dialogue and improved cooperation.” Experts argued earlier in 2014, this EU policy could certainly affect Cuban policies, but as well US policies towards La Havana. They ended up being correct. For these reasons, the US cannot fall behind in term of influence in its neighborhood. Obama understands the geopolitical realities and the need for the US to solidify its ties with the island.
Nicolas Pinault of La Voix de l’Amérique asked several questions concerning the reasons behind the shift in US policies, the likelihood of the new Congress to approve Obama’s renewed Cuban policies, and the feeling of Cuban-American in Florida about the different strategies of US policies towards Cuba in either maintaining the status-quo or opening the relations with Cuba (Listen to the interview, in French, here).
Dimensions of the new US policy towards Cuba
As announced by Obama, the US-Cuba relations are going to change. However, the embargo will remain active as Congress will have to decide about its future. “The embargo” said Obama “that’s been imposed for decades is now codified in legislation. As these changes unfold, I look forward to engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo.”
The changes in US-Cuba relationship are several:
- reestablishment of diplomatic relations in the very near future, with the re-opening of a US embassy in Cuba
- a review in the identification of Cuba as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. The types of terrorism in the mind of US policy makers have changed since the 1990s. Once terrorists had strong affiliation with communist regimes – remember Carlos, Red Army Factions -, while today they are linked with international networks of radical islamist groups and some middle eastern regimes.
- opening the doors for increasing travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba (such dimension certainly remove most of the teeth of the US embargo towards Cuba).
The 114th US Congress is scheduled to start its legislative functions on January 6th. The Republican Party has already expressed its opinion on the new US policy, now it will be interesting to see how the legislature will handle the issue by either maintaining the embargo and ultimately the status-quo, or answering Obama’s call.
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