It’s been 54 years since the United States severed relations with Cuba during the Cold War. Times have changed. Thanks to major transformations that took place during those years, that chapter can now be closed with the formal reestablishment of relations and the opening of embassies in Washington, DC and Havana.
President Obama made the normalization of relations with Cuba one of his foreign policy priorities. Between December—when the first announcement about the change in relations was made—and now, the rapprochement has solidified during numerous meetings that resolved some differences, while others are still pending.
Apparently, the White House’s strategy is that if the desired results aren’t achieved, that doesn’t stop the progress, with the hope of obtaining them later. For example, there has been no agreement about the free movement of American diplomats around the island, or about their contacts with dissidents. The same happened with Cubans’ lack of freedom of expression and political freedom.
Politicians who oppose the opening point to the lack of freedoms on the island. However, after a decades-long embargo has failed to change the Cuban regime, fewer and fewer people support it. The hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans who have traveled to the island to see relatives ever since the first travel restrictions were lifted in 2009 reflect the growing lack of support that the isolationist policy toward Cuba has, even among Cuban-Americans.
A Republican-controlled Congress won’t help Obama fully reach his objectives by repealing the embargo law currently in effect or confirming the first ambassador to Havana in this new era. However, that won’t prevent the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba from becoming an embassy and its current leader from becoming the acting ambassador on July 22, when Secretary of State John Kerry raises the U.S. flag.
The U.S. has relations with many countries that are far from being a Western democracy. This isn’t an exception. It provides an opportunity to improve, or influence, the political and economic situation in Cuba instead of continuing a decades-long failure.